Our special thanks to former Underdog Dynasty writer, Fletcher Keel, who owns the independent TheTowelRackWKU.com, covering all things WKU. In addition to his own site and SBN work, Fletcher also previous wrote for Fansided’s BluegrassDominion.com.
Fletcher can be followed on twitter at @fletchertopper, while TRWKU is accessed at @TheTowelRackWKU.
Thanks for the great Q&A!
1. Wide receiver Taywan Taylor is the most dangerous weapon on the team (86 catches, for 1467 yards and 17 TDs,) but who else should Alabama fans keep an eye out for?
Nicholas Norris is another key figure in the Tops' receiving corps, and he actually out performed Taylor statistically in week 1 against Rice, hauling in seven total receptions and two touchdowns (one of which was an 87-yard strike). The receiving corps has a lot of potential, but is very young - Taylor and Norris are the two veterans of the squad. Guys like Nacarius Fant and Will Bush have the potential to be very dangerous, but just haven't been called upon to make huge, game changing plays yet.
If the Tops go to a ground attack, Anthony "Ace" Wales is their guy, and he should be among the best RBs in Conference USA by the season's end. It was supposed to be a two-headed monster of Wales and D'Andre Ferby, but Ferby went down last week and is out indefinitely.
And, finally, there's Mike White, who had just about the best game anyone can have. He's replacing a program-changing quarterback in Brandon Doughty, and all he did was throw for 512 yards and completely light the world on fire. There was a three-man race in fall camp but White (a South Florida transfer) won out and is picking up right where Doughty left off.
2. This is Coach Brohm's second year coaching the Hilltoppers. After last year's 12-2 season, what can he possibly do for an encore? And, with his offensive coaching pedigree, do you think that he's already a shortlist candidate for a power 5 job?
The perfect encore would be to defeat Alabama, but we both know how long of a shot that is. I think a 10-win season, another appearance in the CUSA title game and a third-straight bowl win (I can hear all the Bama fans laughing at how that seems like a huge step forward, but it hasn't been done for WKU at the FBS level) would be a good start.
Absolutely he is. He was a name that was floating around when Illinois fired their head coach before last season but that didn't become anything more than just rumors. WKU has always been a stepping stone spot, and each of the last two coaches - Willie Taggart to South Florida and Bobby Petrino to Louisville - have been no exception. However, Brohm did sign an extension this past offseason so he might stick around and pass by those P5 opportunities, at least for the foreseeable future. For me, I think Brohm stays three more years, which is more than enough to put WKU in the realm of the likes of, say, Boise St. form the early 2000s.
3. The schizoid Big 12 invited suitors from every far-flung part of this great nation, and, at one time, WKU sought consideration. With that falling through, where do you think the Tops land next in conference expansion? Clearly this program is better than the CUSA.
There are strong rumors that, if a team like UConn or Cincinnati (or both) bolt from the AAC to join the Big 12, WKU is almost a shoe-in for an AAC spot, which would be a great fit. I often think of myself as a pessimist when it comes to my favorite teams so I don't see that window for the Tops, especially with the football success coming so recent (last year's CUSA title was the program's first at the FBS level), but I also have no say in the decisions and I'd love to be proven wrong.
4. WKU dismantled poor Rice 46-14 over the holiday weekend. What did you take away from the defense's play that can translate to the much bigger stage at Bryant-Denny Stadium?
They never really played like it was a 46-14 game until the last couple of drives of the night when Rice marched down the field pretty easily, but even that drive ended in a garbage time endzone interception. While it’s worrisome that they allowed nearly 200 yards through the air, they did hold the Owls to just over 100 rushing yards.
5. Hypothetical time: Western Kentucky shocks the world and beats No. 1 Alabama at home. How did it happen?
Mike White throws for 600+ yards and 8 touchdowns. Just kidding.
If it were to happen, it'd be the Tops matching Bama step for step. The Tide score? Boom, Tops answer. Tide go for it on 4th & goal from the 3 late in the 3rd? Boom, defense stands tall and puts together a 97-yard scoring drive.
Mike White had a great quote earlier this week - "we fear no man and no program." If the whole team can truly buy into that mentality - and if they can physically handle playing and hanging with a premiere SEC team, especially in the trenches - it'd be really, really fun to see those 4th & short, big game moments. From both sides of the ball.
6. You're tasked with coaching the WKU defense, and you realize that you can only stop one player on the Alabama offense. Who do you try to shutdown to give yourself the best chance of an upset?
I'd be fine with forcing the inexperienced freshman quarterbacks to make plays on my secondary. If they beat me, great, we'll get them next time. So, with that said, I'd zero on in the kentucky kid in Damien Harris. I know the history and tradition of Bama running backs, especially during the Saban era, and I make it as hard as possible for the Tide to run all over my defense.
7. Final score, how we got there, and your predicted MVP:
I really want to say the Tops show up and give Bama a game. And to some extent, I think they do. I think it's within two scores at the half, I think the Tops might even take an early lead at some point, and I think guys like White, Taylor and even Wales put up good numbers and have respectable games.
But I also know how Nick Saban is when it comes to preparing for every opponent like its the title game, and especially with Ole Miss on the horizon for the Tide next week, he's going to do everything he can to ensure his guys don't fall into what is basically the ultimate trap game.
In our Q&A you gave a 45-17 prediction (ed. note: we’ll pass that link along when available], and I like something along those lines. I'll give my guys a little more, but still say the Tide roll to a 45-24 win, with Harris taking it to his home-state school, but White throws for at least 300 yards.
Again, our thanks to Fletcher and Towel Rack for the great Q&A. We did a companion one for that very site, and, when available, we’ll share it with you. Give him/them a follow on Twitter, and feel free to say hi or ask any questions you may have.