Preview: Upset-minded Hilltoppers travel to Illinois


It’s week two of the college football season and the countdown to kickoff is OFFICIALLY underway, as the Tops are set to take on the Fighting Illini in the Land of Lincoln. For WKU they are coming off a win at the hands of Bowling Green State University, while Illinois are coming off a lackluster win against FCS foe Youngstown State. However, in football, there’s a 24 hour rule and the stage is set for both of these schools to showdown on a beautiful Saturday in September.

For both teams, the players to watch will be the quarterbacks. Brandon Doughty for WKU is coming off a career night where he threw for 569 yards with 46 completions (both of those, by the way, are school records). Doughty, who was named the Conference USA Player of the Week, will have to compete against Illinois gun slinger Wes Lunt. Lunt didn’t break Big 10 records, but he broke school records throwing for 285 yards and 4 scores in their 28-17 victory over the Penguins.

Looking at head coaches, the Hilltoppers’ Jeff Brohm is one game into his Tops career and had an astounding showing. Brohm also spent time in Illinois prior to joining Bobby Petrino’s staff last year. For the Illini, it’s Tim Beckman at the helm, and it’s his third season with the team, but has an overall record of 7-9 and a 1-15 conference mark. and has an overall record of 7-18 and only 1-15 in B1G play.

On the defensive side of the ball, WKU is in a transition period after losing Andrew Jackson, Xavius Boyd and Jonathan Dowling. For Illinois, their bright spot is most likely the defensive side of the ball. The Illini boast a defense with a Butkis Award candidate in Mason Monheim, who recorded 15 tackles – one short of a career high – last week. The Illini defense held YSU to 3.4 yards per rush and only a 46% completion rate, plus just one touchdown on four redzone trips. The Hilltoppers’ defense held Bowling Green to 31 points, the majority of them coming in garbage time after the first team was off the field.

We’ve addressed the quarterbacks, so lets now look at the offenses as a whole. WKU put up over 700 yards of total offense against BGSU, breaking 13 total records in the process. Illinois’ offense struggled in their home opener, only scoring 28 points against an FCS opponent. Illinois boast a sophomore at the QB position along with a young receiving corps, including freshman Malik Turner, who recorded 42 yards on four catches, averaging over 10 yards per catch, and Mike Dudek (another freshman) who lead the Illini in receiving, racking up 61 yards on just three catches and a touchdown. Illinois either couldn’t establish a running game last week or they simply don’t trust their two senior running backs, because both Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young combined for 46 yards last week on the ground last week.
For WKU, the offense was prolific, as 11 wide receivers recorded at least one reception, with Taywan Taylor and Jared Dangerfield leading the way, both in double digit catches. With one offense struggling early and one coming alive at the push of a button, this should become an interesting afternoon.

In all, this game should produce a fun atmosphere as this is the Hilltoppers fifth venture into Big 10 country. The Hilltoppers are winless against B1G opponents, however they lost only one non-conference game in 2013, but are 1-12 in their last 13 home openers.

What will you be looking for in the game? Do you have any particular keys to the game to ensure a WKU victory? Let us know below in a comment or on twitter at @WaveTheRedTowel.