Beware the Hilltoppers.
Sure, Western Kentucky plays in the mediocre Conference USA and hasn’t beaten anyone noteworthy aside from SEC bottom-feeder, Vanderbilt. Yes, LSU will enter Saturday with a 6-0 record and the best player in the country. Of course, the game will be played at Tiger Stadium, where the Tigers have been historically dominant under coach Les Miles.
But Western Kentucky (6-1) has not been a cupcake. They might not have the juggernaut resume, but they are capable of giving the Tigers everything they can handle.
Miles acknowledged how dangerous Western Kentucky could be throughout the week. Miles showed even more respect by admitting he voted for the Hilltoppers in his top-25 ballot this week.
“They’re a really quality football team, talented players on both sides of the ball, very — offensively very explosive,” Miles said during his Monday press conference.
Western Kentucky has conquered its last four opponents by at least 27 points while scoring at least 49 in each of those games. The Hilltoppers can throw the ball and that’s an understatement. Western Kentucky has averaged 407 passing yards per game entering Saturday’s contest, the third-best average nationally.
WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty ranks second in the nation in passing yards and tied for third in touchdown passes. Miles said Doughty would hold his own if he played in the SEC.
“So their quarterback, Brandon Doughty, every bit an SEC quarterback, big, talented, strong, smart quarterback,” Miles said. “Again, enough to — you watch the film, it’ll get your — he’ll get your attention.”
LSU’s secondary will be tested by Doughty and the Hilltoppers offense. The Tigers have allowed an average of 205 passing yards per game, but haven’t faced many quarterbacks as talented as Doughty. LSU has faced an opponent’s backup quarterback in four consecutive games. That good fortune will come to an end against the talented Doughty.
Miles said the matchup between Doughty and LSU’s secondary should be an exciting one.
“One of our strengths has been the secondary,” Miles said according to NOLA.com’s Jim Kleinpeter. “This will be a nice matchup.”
The Hilltoppers cannot be viewed as a joke to LSU, who approached Eastern Michigan more as a punch-line than an opponent earlier in the year. The looming bye week and a pivotal battle against Alabama in two weeks could generate a lackadaisical mindset to this week’s game. Miles said his team will need to hone in on Western Kentucky this weekend and nothing else.
“I promise you, these Tigers will be directed toward this opponent and none other,” Miles said according to The Advocate’s Marcus Rodrigue.
In Miles’ mind, Western Kentucky is as good as any team LSU has hosted this season.
“So I just want you to know that this team coming in fits every bit as well in Tiger Stadium as other teams that we’ve hosted this year,” Miles said. “So you’ll find that there will be another really quality football team across the way from your Tigers.”
LSU has said all of the right things, but the Tigers will need to display that respect on the field.