Coach Taggart and the Hilltoppers (3-1) take on Sun Belt rival Arkansas State (2-2) this Saturday. Read all the gameday information you need to know below from InsideHilltopperSports.com
Kickoff time: 6:00 PM (CST)
Radio: Big Red Radio Network
Weather: Currently high of 78 degrees, low of 59. 20% chance of rain.
The Red Wolves' are 2-2 so far in 2012, with losses to then No. 5 Oregon (57-34) and at Nebraska (42-13). They've defeated both Memphis (33-28) and Alcorn State (56-0) at home. Head Coach Gus Malzahn is in his 1st year with the program. He was prior the offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2009-11', winning a national title in 2010 and the Broyles Award for the top assistant coach in college football.
3 players to watch:
1) Ryan Aplin (#16)-Quarterback: A senior, Aplin was voted preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year in 2012, after winning the postseason award in 2011. He led Arkansas State to an 8-0 record in the Sun Belt as a junior. NFLDraftScout.com has Aplin ranked as the No. 27 NFL draft-ready quarterback out of 134 potential draftees in the draft class of 2013.
Chaz Scales(#25)-Cornerback: Another pre-season 1st team all-SBC pick, Scales led the conference with 11 pass breakups in 2011. Listed at only 5-foot-9 (but athletic), look for WKU to try to expose his height disadvantage.
3) David Oku (#25)-Runningback: The No. 1 all-purpose runningback in the country in the Class of 2009, Oku transferred to Arkansas State from Tennessee. He's rushed 65 times this season for 328 yards, a 5.0 yards per carry average.
The big story entering this game are the suspensions of WKU safety Jonathan Dowling and Arkansas State linebacker Qushaun Lee. Dowling was suspended for Saturday after being ejected on a personal foul penalty versus Southern Miss, while Lee is out for a personal foul hit against Alcorn State.
Lee, a redshirt sophomore linebacker who has started the last three games for the Red Wolves, is second on the team in tackles (31). With WKU's pro-style and motion heavy offense, Lee's suspension could create a big advantage for the Hilltoppers, not only via the run game, but also through WKU's patented underneath throws to tight ends and runningbacks. Arkansas State allows over 220 rushing yards a game, ranked No. 110 out of 124 teams in FBS football. For comparison's sake, Southern Miss is ranked No. 114 out of 124 teams (234 ypg), after allowing 369 yards to WKU last weekend.
On the flip side, Jonathan Dowling's suspension could be just as key for Arkansas State's offense. Quarterback Ryan Aplin is 80-for-108 passing (a 74% completion percentage) for five touchdowns and two interceptions in three career games against the Hilltoppers. That's 36 attempts a game for Aplin when playing against WKU. In 2012, WKU has had the luxury of giving Dowling almost sole responsibility of shutting down the deep pass in Cover 1 schemes. Kareem Peterson (a 2012 preseason 2nd team All-SBC pick by Phil Steele) is a more than suitable replacement for Dowling, but just can't cover as much ground in the Cover 1 as the former Florida Gator can. Will WKU be forced to use more Cover 2 schemes to make up for Dowling's absence, or attempt to use Peterson in the same role as Dowling? It will be the story to watch against the potent Arkansas State pass game.
WKU Week 5 Notes:
WKU two-deep depth chart: Click here.
Quote of the week: Is Arkansas State a rivalry?: "I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say that personally. It's another conference game. If anything I see them as being the champions. They have what we want so we got to go out and play really well if we want it. That's what we wanna be. We want people to say, 'WKU is Sun Belt champs'. It's the first step at doing that."-Head Coach Willie Taggart.
Stay tuned to InsideHilltopperSports.com over the weekend for complete coverage of WKU's Week 5 matchup against Arkansas State.
Give your predictions on the WKU v. Arkansas State game on the WKU Forums.