1. Obviously, the passing numbers jump out for Western Kentucky. What can you tell us about the X's and O's of this offense under head coach Jeff Brohm?
Yes, everything you've probably heard or read about Brandon Doughty is true. He can air out the ball like few in the game. But, Brohm also likes to allow his receivers to make plays, and screen passes are just as much a part of the passing game as the 40-yard touchdown pass. Brohm likes to step on the throat as hard as he can in the first half, then if the lead is sufficient, lay off and hope the defense holds in the second half. Last year, it didn't work too well as the Hilltoppers say 10-plus point leads disappear in all but one loss. This year has been a different story, but LSU is without a doubt the best test WKU will see this year, so it'll be fun to see how they react in Tiger Stadium.
2. Is this a situation where the Hilltoppers will get off the plane throwing, or will the offense be a little more balanced?
I wouldn't be surprised if it goes either way, honestly. We've seen games where they do begin throwing all over the field (the MTSU game is a great example) but we also saw the Tops try to establish a run game early - probably the best example would be the Indiana game, when D'Andre Ferby got three of the first four plays of the game on the ground (the week after leading rusher Leon Allen went down). I wouldn't be surprised if the first drive is balanced, just to keep LSU guessing, but with Anthony Wales taking over as RB1, the big-play threat is greater with him than what we saw with Ferby.
3. Who are some of the players LSU should know in this game besides Brandon Doughty?
On the offensive side of things, every one of his receivers is a viable option for a big day. Taywan Taylor is averaging 18 yards a catch and leads the team with 10 touchdowns. Jared Dangerfield has been plagued by a nagging injury but is still producing (11 yards per catch and five touchdowns). Nicholas Norris, Antwane Grant and Nacarius Fant are all targets that Doughty feels very, very comfortable with. His security blanket, Tyler Higbee, was injured last week at North Texas, so if he uses a tight end it'll most likely be Tim Gorski.
With Allen out in the backfield, the rushing duties now belong to Anthony (Ace) Wales, who exploded last week and reminds me so much of Antonio Andrews (now with the Titans).
Defensively, there isn't as many threats, but Nick Holt Jr. (son of WKU defensive coordinator), TJ McCollum (a UAB transfer, who I'm sure you'll hear all about on the ESPNU broadcast come Saturday) and Wonderful Terry (who burst onto the scene last year with three turnovers returned for a touchdown) are the main guys to try and stop the Tigers attack.
4. What style of defense does WKU run, and how effective are they?
Nick Holt runs a, primarily, 4-3 defense, and they show glimpses of doing really good things. The difficult thing about WKU's defensive stats is that a lot of them are very much skewed. The defense will play really solid in the first half, then come out with a three or four touchdown lead in the second half and play a bit more lax, so it really is hard to gauge how this defense might have to play for 60 minutes.
The closest we've gotten was in the matchup against Indiana, where a 21-0 Hoosiers third quarter helped IU win by three points. The Hilltoppers surrendered 284 rushing yards (203 of which came from the Big 10's leading rusher in Jordan Howard) and 355 receiving yards. I actually am not so worried about WKU being able to defend against LSU's pass. I'm more worried about how well Leonard Fournette is going to run, and if he has success time and time again, then it'll be a long night. For me, anyway.
5. Finally, WKU is 6-1, and right on the edge of the top 25. What's the view of this game on your side, and how confident will the Hilltoppers come into this one?
This is a game that WKU fans certainly aren't thinking will be a victory. But here's the thing, WKU fans also think this could be a game that is decided by two scores or less. The popular perception seems to be that if WKU can keep it respectable, then they'll continue to garner a ton of votes and get even closer to a national ranking. The players don't have any illusions of who they're playing this week - they know it'll be a big test. But, they also realize that they too are division one athletes, and want to prove that they belong on the same playing field. Thankfully, there's no Rudy Ford or Jon Bullard type quote (so far) coming out about how confident they are in being able to completely shut down Fournette. There's respect for the Tigers on the Hill, much like Les Miles has been showing respect towards WKU.
However, Miles being that complementary of the Tops in his week-opening presser, doesn't bode well for WKU. This isn't a team that can sneak up on anyone anymore and LSU is going to be prepared, which could make things ugly. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a 35 point or 3 point LSU win. If I had to pick a final score, I'll go in the 49-28 range. Tigers, of course (don't tell my WKU friends I said that thought).