Okay, so the luster has sort of been taken away from tonight's ESPNU matchup with Louisiana-Monroe, the Warhawks will be minus the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year in dual-threat sensation Kolton Browning.
To add insult to a devastating injury, the Warhawks are coming off an embarrassing 31-14 home loss at the hands of Tulane, which spurned head coach Todd Berry to make these comments:
"That's about the worst performance I think I've ever been around. I've been around some bad teams before but this one is suppose to be a good team."
With one of the Sun Belt favorites seemingly at a low point this season, the Hilltoppers shouldn't have anything to worry about tonight in Monroe, La., right?
Maybe not, but I wouldn't mess around with a wounded animal.
The Warhawks still have offensive weapons - running back Jyruss Edwards (248 rush yds, 1 TD) and wide receivers Rashon Caesar (31 catches, 341 yds), Tavarese Maye (25 catches, 225 yds, 1 TD), and Je'Ron Hamm (16 catches, 165 yds, 1 TD), who is returning from an injury suffered in the Baylor game.
Defensively, ULM is giving up a ton of yards (418 per game) and a lot of points (32.8 per game) thanks in large part to their 70-7 loss to Baylor, where the Bears accumulated a ho-hum 781 total yards of offense. That's just another day at the office for Art Briles.
The opportunities for Western Kentucky to have the proper offensive explosion they have been looking for are there. Monroe is currently allowing 195.2 rushing and 222.4 passing yards per game - establish the run early with Antonio Andrew, ease into the passing game with some short throws, and take a few shots deep down field.
That sounds like a good game plan, right? I thought so, anyway.
Monroe will attempt to counter with linebackers Cameron Blakes (39 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) and Ray Stovall (20 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack), along with safety Isaiah Newsome (21 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions).
As far as the Warhawks' quarterback situation, sophomore Brayle Brown will get the start and true freshman Brian Williams will also get some playing time. Brown is your more traditional pocket passer who's logged playing time in all five games this season, going 14-of-28 for 167 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
As for Williams, he's the type of quarterback that's flourished against Western Kentucky's defense this season - athletic, dual-threat. Could we see another signal caller curve ball thrown at the Hilltopper defense reminiscent of South Alabama back on September 14th? It's very possible.
However, I'd assume the Hilltoppers learned a few things from their last road trip to Mobile, Alabama.
My prediction: Western Kentucky prevails in a close one, 31-27.