Old Dominion Monarchs vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 18th 2023

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In a college football climate where top players routinely sit out of bowl games, Malachi Corley is bucking the trend.

The Western Kentucky star receiver will suit up for the Hilltoppers one last time when they face Old Dominion on Monday afternoon in the Famous Toastery Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.

In the regular-season finale victory over Florida International, Corley became Western Kentucky’s career record holder with 255 receptions and became the third Hilltopper to top 3,000 receiving yards. He also stands second in program history with 29 touchdown catches.

Plus, his ability to chew up yards after the catch has led to projections that he could go as high as the second round in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Regardless, Corley is all set to play when Western Kentucky (7-5) meets Old Dominion (6-6).

“Specifically, my brother and my trainer don’t want me to play in this game,” Corley said, according to the Bowling Green Daily News. “I feel like the scouts, the people that are in charge of the bowls, they also feel like I don’t play in this game as well. They feel like I have nothing to prove.

“But for myself, I feel like I have everything to prove. That’s the chip I carry myself every single day. I feel like I have everything to prove to everybody.”

Corley is 42 yards away from a second straight 1,000-yard receiving season. He has 75 receptions and has tied his career high of 11 scoring catches.

Quarterback Austin Reed has thrown for 3,340 yards and 31 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, for Western Kentucky, which averages 29.8 points per game.

Safety Kendrick Simpkins has 10 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. Hilltoppers cornerback Anthony Johnson Jr. has three interceptions.

The top player on Old Dominion, All-America linebacker Jason Henderson, won’t play Monday after sustaining a season-ending leg injury in the Monarchs’ 25-24 win over Georgia State on Nov. 25. His 170 tackles were the most nationally entering the bowl season.

“Everyone’s just got to come together,” Old Dominion coach Ricky Rahne told reporters. “Obviously we know we’re losing an All-American-type player, but also I think our guys are going to step up to the challenge.”

Linebacker Wayne Matthews III also is enjoying a strong season with 121 tackles.

Offensively, Monarchs quarterback Grant Wilson has thrown for 2,026 yards and 16 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. Old Dominion averages 22.9 points per game.

The bowl game is the third for Old Dominion at the FBS level. Old Dominion beat Eastern Michigan 24-20 at the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl and lost to Tulsa 30-17 at the 2021 Myrtle Beach Bowl.

Western Kentucky is 6-3 in FBS bowl games and is making its fifth straight appearance. The Hilltoppers routed South Alabama 44-23 in last season’s New Orleans Bowl.

Western Kentucky holds a 6-1 record against Old Dominion, including a 43-20 road win in 2021.

–Field Level Media

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