Western Kentucky and Kentucky will open the season against each other for the final time in the foreseeable future this Saturday.
Read our full preview below for details on the matchup.
Kickoff time: 6 p.m. CT.
TV: ESPNNews, online at ESPN3.com
Radio: IMG Sports Network
Weather: As of Thursday afternoon (according to www.weather.com,) the forecast calls for a high of 92 degrees, low of 72 with a 10 percent chance of rain.
Three matchups to watch
1) Forrest Lamp vs. Kentucky DL:
Replacing graduated WKU OL starters Adam Smith and Seth White are redshirt senior Ed Hazelett and redshirt freshman Forrest Lamp.
Hazelett has earned plenty of playing experience over his Topper career, including action in 11 games for WKU in 2012.
But Forrest? He's more of an unknown.
There's no denying the redshirt freshman's talent, who chose WKU out of high school over offers from Iowa State, Temple, Ohio, and several other FBS programs.
But he faces a difficult matchup against a loaded defensive line that includes preseason All-SEC defensive end Bud Dupree.
WKU's returning starters on the line, including Sean Conway, Cameron Clemmons and Luis Polanco, have all earned various preseason accolades and dominated Kentucky at the line-of-scrimmage in the 2012 matchup.
So look for Kentucky to test Forrest on the right side of the line, as his performance could be a major make-or-break factor for WKU in the game.
2) Brandon Doughty vs. Kentucky secondary:
Anyone who follows WKU football has known for a while that Brandon Doughty has had a more accurate arm than former 3-year starter Kawaun Jakes, who played his final season in 2012.
Despite the precision upgrade that Doughty brings replacing Jakes, he has very little game experience, and is also challenged with leading new head coach Bobby Petrino's notoriously complex offense.
And Doughty is sure to face pressure from Kentucky's quality defensive line.
But--If given time to throw, he'll likely have several receivers to hit.
The Cats only returns three scholarship cornerbacks from their 2012 defense that was statistically near the bottom of FBS football against the pass.
Sophomores Cody Quinn and Fred Tiller are listed as the early starters at cornerback on the depth chart, but new pickups (true freshman) Jaleel Hytchye and junior college transfer Nate Willis will also earn reps against WKU.
Hytchye and Willis were both highly-touted prospects, but have never played a down of FBS football.
On the receiving end, WKU returns veteran speedster Willie Mcneal, while adding junior Joel German back from injury in 2012 and true freshman Taywan Taylor.
It's my personal opinion that German is the best receiver on the roster, with Taylor not far behind, even as a true freshman.
Kentucky will be prepared for McNeal returning from last year, but the underestimated skill of German and Taylor could catch them off-guard.
Combine the under-appreciated skills of German and Taylor, McNeal's experience, Kentucky weaknesses in the secondary, and Petrino's offensive genius, and it could be a big night for quarterback Doughty.
But he first has to execute the complex offense correctly, and handle the pressure of his first big start.
3) WKU's defensive line vs. Kentucky's offensive line:
It's no secret that arguably the weakest position group that WKU has is the defensive line.
The Toppers had to replace all four defensive line starters from 2012, including NFL Draft pick Quanterus Smith.
The DL has been one of the most interesting position groups to watch during camp, as the new coaching staff not only has to replace the previous starters, but they're looking to go smaller than the previous coaching staff due to the number of up-tempo offenses they'll face this year.
Changes already made including moving former OLB Bar'ee Boyd to DE and former DE Calvin Washington to DT, among others.
Opposite Boyd at starting defensive end will be redshirt sophomore Gavin Rocker.
Rotating in behind an experienced defensive line in 2012, Rocker earned three sacks and four tackles for loss in his limited reps as a redshirt freshman.
At tackle, redshirt sophomore Bryan Shorter and redshirt freshman Devante Terrell look to be the early favorites.
Terrell, a former Class of 2012 prospect, chose the Toppers' out of high school over offers from Louisville, Iowa State, Arizona State and UCF, among many others.
So WKU's defensive line, while talented, is tasked with the challenge of performing up to the standards set by WKU's DL in 2012, which held the Cats to 41 rushing yards on 19 carries.
And that's a tough act to follow for an inexperienced bunch.
WKU Week 1 notes: CLICK HERE.
WKU inactive player list: Safety Kiante Young (injury).
Stat of the week:
Quote of the week:
WKU ILB Andrew Jackson on the 2012 Kentucky game: "Yeah, it really is irrelevant because they got a new coach that’s gonna try to come around and trick yah and four-wide stuff, try to trick us up. But we’re just gonna hit ‘em in the mouth and get it over with."
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