Start Time: Saturday, September 2nd at 6:00 PM CT
Location: Bowling Green, Kentucky, Houchens Industries–L. T. Smith Stadium
Series History: WKU leads the all-time series 46-35 with three ties. WKU won the last meeting in 2008 by a score of 37-13.
Betting Line: As of Thursday, August 31st, WKU is favored to win by 51 according to Oddshark.com
The Tops begin the 2017 season and Mike Sanford’s first regular season at the helm by renewing the Battle of the Bluegrass against an in-state FCS opponent in the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
While EKU is coming off of a particularly bad year in which they finished 3-8 and 1-6 in conference play, there’s some reasons for Mark Elder’s team to be optimistic about their upcoming year. Part of that is their last two recruiting classes have been ranked in the top 25 in FCS.
The Colonels also have a pretty decent experienced backfield with UConn transfer Tim Boyle set to take the reigns at QB and three decent options at running back. That includes Louisville transfer L.J. Scott, Arizona State transfer Jason Lewis, and EKU’s leading rusher from the last two years Ethan Thomas.
In 19 games at UConn, Boyle threw for 1,237 yards but had just one touchdown to 13 interceptions. This will be a good first test for WKU’s pass defense that ranked tenth in the league last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Eastern has some experience with seven starters from last year’s team returning including linebacker Jeffrey Canady who is tabbed as a preseason FCS All-American. All in all though, they are an incredibly young team. 66 of the 116 players on EKU’s roster are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
For what it’s worth, their punter, Keith Wrzuszczak, is also a preseason All-American.
WKU released their depth chart earlier in the week and there were few, if any surprises.
WKU football's Week 1 depth chart for its 6 pm Saturday game vs. Eastern Kentucky: pic.twitter.com/o6kdmzoh9N— Brad Stephens (@BradBGDN) August 28, 2017
The only things that caught me a bit off guard were Juwan Gardner not starting at safety and Mik’Quan Deane not being higher on the depth chart. We’ll see how that changes throughout the year.
For WKU fans, the names to watch this week on offense and defense are all very familiar. Click the links in that last sentence for a little more detailed breakdown of those guys. Also keep an eye on corner Roger Cray as it looks like he’s the only true freshman that will see significant playing time, at least initially.
In theory, WKU shouldn’t have too much to worry about against an opponent that still has significant room for improvement. The Tops’ offense should get clicking and take over relatively early. Though I would expect one or two hiccups just because it’s a new system on both sides of the ball and they are implementing it in a live game for the first time. At the end of the day, WKU will just overpower the Colonels to start 1-0.
WKU 45 EKU 10