Morgan State rolls into town on Saturday evening to be the first opponent Western Kentucky will face inside the friendly confines of Houchens-Smith Stadium. The Hilltoppers open up as a 33.5 point favorite, which should help heal the wounds of last week's deflating 31-24 loss at South Alabama.
After such a disappointing loss, a few may ask why the Hilltoppers are such huge favorites on Saturday? Well, the Bears flash a record of 0-3, that includes losses to Army, Robert Morris (Kentucky's arch nemesis), and Liberty - not exactly a resume that screams intimidation or fear.
After Wednesday's practice, junior free safety Jonathan Dowling was asked what problem(s) does Morgan State's offense pose for the defense, Dowling's response, "I don't know, nothing, we just got to play our game."
Was there a trace of cockiness in that answer? Maybe, but don't confuse it with swagger. The defense knows how talented they are, especially in the back seven, they've had their fair share of struggles - defending dual-threat quarterbacks, gap responsibilities, and dropped interceptions.
Morgan State will probably make any defense salivate with confidence. The Bears are averaging a mere 254.3 yards of total offense a game.
Let's take a look at the Bears offensive playmaker:
- QB: Moses Skillon - 12-of-30, 235 yds, 2 TD - 23 rushes, 99 yds
- RB: Lamont Brown - 29 rushes, 110 yds
- WR: Chris Flowers - 6 catches, 112 yds, 2 TD
In the last couple of days, a quarterback battle has emerged from WKU practice and head coach Bobby Petrino cleared the air after Thursday's practice, noting that practice film will be evaluated and they will make a decision on who the starter will be for Saturday's game today.
Regardless of who is under center, they should feel confident going up against a defense that currently gives up 403.7 yards a game.
Heck, I could probably take snaps at center and guide WKU to victory (once again, don't confuse cockiness with swagger). Hear me out, the formula is simple, I would always audible to a run because Morgan State's defense allows 271.7 yards rushing a game - handoff to Antonio Andrews, toss sweep to Leon Allen, read option to Keshawn Simpson up the middle, and a reverse toss to Nicholas Norris - that playcalling formula is good for at least a three touchdown victory.
However, I have a feeling that Petrino, being the offensive guru he is, probably wants to pass the ball around a little. After all, he's trying to assess who is going to be the quarterback for the duration of the season.
Let's take a look at Morgan State's defensive playmakers:
- LB: Cody Acker - 32 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack
- CB: Joe Rankin - 13 tackles, 2 interceptions
- SS: Darien Irby - 20 tackles
What to watch for
Fast Start - Western Kentucky has scored on their first possession in all three games this season, I look for that trend to continue on Saturday evening. Nothing gives you a quicker shot of confidence than to put points on the board early.
Quarterbacks - That's been the sizzling story the past two days, the position is now open and it will be interesting to see who gets the start on Saturday. It is likely that we see all quarterbacks play in some capacity (no offense Morgan State), making this a live in-game rehearsal.
Creating Turnovers - Earlier, I mentioned Jonathan Dowling's confident, swaggerific answer to a question posed about Morgan State's offense. We'll see if the defense can create multiple turnovers against an inferior team, something I'm sure the Hilltopper defense is disappointed with thus far.
Studs, Feed Them - As I look into my crystal ball, I foresee a big day for the trio of Antonio Andrews, Leon Allen, and Keshawn Simpson. So big, that it's highly likely we'll see Ace Wales get some significant playing time at running back as well.
Prediction A dose of Morgan State is just what the doctor ordered, 45-13, Hilltoppers.