I've been trying to find a reason to pick on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. I've drudged the Google and looked for evil intent on the Twitter, but I can't find a reason to dislike these guys.
From what I can tell they are well coached and ambitious. I like both of those attributes.
There are some things I've read that concern me. Olewhistlebridges writes that "WKU improved by 104 yards per game against the pass and 104 yards against the run between 2014 and 2015." That's the kind of weird and lazy coincidence that will tear you up when you realize that you are living in a matrix like construct. How did you not realize?
The Hilltoppers are a fun team. Well coached (again). Innovative. Not Orange. Successful.
So I don't have a "Why we hate the Hilltoppers and should eat X" narrative to feed you, my hungry masses. In fact, I kind of want to claim them as our own per the CB969 Adopt-A-Team program. Obviously I won't actively advocate adopting them until Sunday. We have to beat them first.
It should go without saying that if they beat us they not only don't get adoption consideration but we A) burn their lands to the ground, level the now barren hills, and sow salt wherever life might attempt to take purchase in our wake or B) all start working really hard with no goal but to make money, take our riches and start donating to WKU with the goal of eventually being so influential that we control a majority of their board of trustees, fire Jeff Brohm, and then offer a pile of cash so immense that current FAU coach Gustav Malzahn cannot refuse taking the Hilltopper's top spot. We'll also give him full control of the entire athletic department. Revenge unlocked.
Should we go with option B there will be infighting here at RBR. What constitutes torture? Do we need to set up a separate endowment to pay for gum? When do we cut off funding because the people of the left side of Kentucky have suffered enough? There will be no simple answers.
But on to likable things broadly and defensibly since WKU puts me in a pleasant state of mind. I was running the wait and bar staff of a very good fine dining restaurant back in 2009. We would chat about various nonsense as we got ready for service. One subject dominated conversation for nearly a week: What food is not made better by the addition of bacon?
There were applicants o'plenty, but none could break through. Bacon was the flavor saver. Finally, a waitress proffered Sour Patch Kids. By the staff's reaction, we had finally found the Kryptonite to bacon's deliciousness. But, to the amazement of a collection of waiters that averaged ten years younger than me, I had never had a Sour Patch Kid.
It was agreed that the waiters would arrange for Sour Patch Kids the next day if I could get the kitchen staff to donate some bacon to our cause.
A day later I tried Sour Patch Kids for the first time. I can't imagine a more disgusting candy. It's aping gummies, which I like, but only in the most mealy way. A collection of dried sugar and "sour" crystals pressed into service to save this sad confection fall short. Horrible. Absolutely vile.
That said, as the staff ewed and yucked at the combination of Sour Patch and bacon, a disgusting combo at best, I found it better than Sour Patch Kids alone. Bacon made it, barely, better. Because bacon is very likable.
I want us to beat them to an unrecognizable pulp tomorrow, but WKU is very likable. So let's have a very likable bacon snack before the game.
This is not a main course. Have at your steaks or burgers or hot dogs. But before that, try this. It's a divergence from a traditional French salad. Bear with me.
My first fine dining job, 1998 or so, was at a French place with a good but limited menu. The most popular salad, and still one of my favorites, was a mix of chopped romaine, shaved carrot, and three marble sized bits of goat cheese wrapped in bacon and warmed in an oven with a red wine vinaigrette and plenty of black pepper.
This hors d'oeuvre recipe claims roots in that salad, but makes it so unrecognizable that rather than feature as an ingredient to the salad, bacon is the corruptor, rendering all health benefits of every other component suspect. I think you'll like it.
Grilled Bacon Bruschetta
(Makes Ten Pieces)
5 Slices Thick Cut Bacon, Applewood Smoked if possible
3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1-2 Jalapenos Pepper or similar, deseeded and minced
4 oz. Fresh Mozzarella
A few ribbons shaved Carrot
A handful Arugula
Juice of one Lemon
Cracked Black Pepper
Cut the bacon in half and make little horizontal laying cones.
Be sparing but put in a bit of garlic and jalapeno.
Stuff with some mozzarella.
Next brush some sliced baguette with Olive Oil and lightly salt and grill.
Set the bread aside and grill the stuffed bacon.
Lightly dress the arugula and carrots with lemon juice, salt and pepper. I was planning on doing a white wine vinaigrette, thus the white wine vinegar in the ingredient's picture above, but I called an audible. The lemon works.
Put a pinch of arugula and carrot on each piece of bread and top with a grilled bacon-cheese cone. The jalapeno should take care of it, but a few grindings of black pepper wouldn't be out of place.
Like I said, I can't find any reason to do anything but extend the hand of friendship to the Hilltoppers. I like them. I really like them. I only hope that come Sunday they accept the hand of friendship in the most awkward of ways: beaten by an opponent they can't help but admire and looking squarely towards beating the hell out of Miami (OH) next week. Otherwise, Option B looms.
So here's a bacony delicious snack that conceivably lets you claim that you had salad and thus a healthy course at your tailgate. It's a tough argument to make, but I feel like I gave you at least a sliver of a claim.
So to both teams (because likable opponents should try these recipes too), Roll Tide, no injuries, and enjoy.