One of the most exciting Western Kentucky games I ever attended came in 2011, my freshman year and my first year following the Hilltoppers. It was the home game immediately following the big win over Louisiana-Lafayette, which snapped a 30+-game home losing streak and is arguably the game you could point to that really turned the program around, and into the juggernaut we see week in and week out on the field.
Following a road *win* at ULM, the Tops came home to battle FIU in, once again one of the most exciting (but also, one of the ugliest) games I think I've ever seen live as a fan (my live-football watching experience isn't very vast, if you couldn't tell). The final score was 10-9, and Casey Tinius (for you Hilltopper-youngins, he was the ball kicker guy before Garrett Schwettman) hit a 34-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tops a win. It was awesome but also kind of disgusting because, man, just what an awful football game that was.
Fast forward to the 2012 season, where the Tops entered Miami having scored at least 26 points in five of the first six games, and at least 30 points in four of those games, only to outlast FIU 14-6 in another really, really ugly football game in which the Panthers turned the ball over four times and Kadeem Jones scored one of the two Hilltoppers touchdowns. There's a blast from the past, eh?
So, even though FIU is coming off a 52-0 blowout loss to the hand of the Herd, don't expect a repeat. I'll explain below.
Start Time: 1:30 p.m. CT
Location: FIU Stadium, Miami, FL
TV: Fox College Sports. Here is a list of times and channels.
Betting Line: WKU -17. Over/Under 65.5
Florida International Golden Panthers: To all Panthers fans - I am horribly, horribly sorry about what Marshall did to you. Even WKU is nice enough to not allow that type of beat down (unless you're MTSU). And the weird thing is, the numbers FIU gave up wouldn't make you think the game was that bad - the Panthers held Marshall to 174 yards and forced an interception and allowed just 289 yards on the ground (which, sure isn't a whole lot, but in a 52-0 game you'd expect both of those numbers to be far, far worse).
But, the Panthers posted numbers that are, in some regards, worse than you'd imagine. FIU threw for less than 100 yards (98) and rushed for just over 100 yards (111). That...is not good.
If WKU fans want to take solace in anything, its the teams FIU have beaten - UCF, North Carolina Central, UTEP (actually a kind of solid win), Old Dominion (okay, again kind of solid) and Charlotte. Not exactly a stellar resume.
But, the Panthers are bowl eligible with a win, and just as people pointed to the Old Dominion game as a trap game for WKU, folks are saying the same for this week against the Panthers. Plus, have I mentioned how when WKU and FIU get together, weird things happen?
The Tophillers: In a year like this, there is very little to say from week to week. We expect Brandon Doughty to pass for a lot of yards, we expect the likes of Jared Dangerfield, Taywan Taylor, Antwane Grant and Nicholas Norris to catch many passes and score at least a touchdown each, and - in recent weeks - expect Ace Wales to post at least 100 yards and a couple of scores from the ground.
And, it usually all happens.
But, what is there to say after none of that happened because no one took the field? A loss doesn't eliminate WKU from contention for playing in and hosting the C-USA Championship Game. It could derail morale a bit, but it won't end championship hopes. A win would push WKU's conference win streak to 10 games.
That's it. That's all I've got.
Prediction: Football will be played, points will be scored, and one team will emerge victorious.
I think we'll see another interesting Hilltopper/Panther game. I think Doughty struggles (by Doughty standards, at least), I think the Panthers come out quicker than the Tops, but I think WKU does just enough to win.
Give me the Hilltoppers, 24-10. Cause that's how WKU/FIU games go.