BOCA RATON – FAU and Western Kentucky both look different than they did last year. Riding a three-game winning streak, FAU has one of the best offenses in the nation. For WKU, the Hilltoppers lost their coach Jeff Brohm to Power Five Purdue and are trying to regain C-USA powerhouse status.
Under new coach Mike Sanford, the second youngest FBS coach, WKU (5-2) is still looking for that signature win. Arguably the best of their five wins came last week over ODU, now 2-5 on the year.
Hilltoppers’ quarterback Michael White has found his step. Last year in the Brohm era, he had monster-passing stats, throwing for over 4,300 yards and 37 touchdowns. This year he has had a slower start but has 10 touchdown passes in his past two games.
White will have a tough battle because he will not have the same team here as he did when he beat the owls last year. He lost receivers Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris to the NFL draft. White will also be without their stud running back Anthony Wales to the draft as well.
With their major targets and Brohm gone, the Hilltoppers needed to make adjustments. A slew of injuries are not helping the process. Nearly all the major injuries coming into the FAU game were on the defense, perhaps the reason they are struggling so much on that side of the ball – particularly against the run.
THE FILE: FAU (4-3, 3-0) vs. WKU (5-2, 3-1)
The Series: FAU leads the series 5-3
Last Meeting: WKU 52, FAU 3
WKU INJURY REPORT
Devon Key, DB: Questionable with an undisclosed injury.
Evan Sayner, DL: Questionable with leg injury.
Joe Brown, DB: Questionable with Upper Body injury.
Marcus Ward, DB: Questionable Undisclosed.
Jalen Madden, DL: Out for season with Knee injury.
De’Andre Simmons, DB: Out for season with Torn AC.
The WKU spread offense still resembles the Brohm offense, though the Hilltoppers are incorporating the tight ends more into their attack. They also spread the ball around, with at least eight players catching a pass in every game this season. The one thing the FAU defense needs to watch out for are deep balls. WKU’s passing attack ranks No. 20 nationally, while the running attack is dead last. WKU’s running backs are not the strong point of their offense, as not one of their running backs have eclipsed more than 250 yards on the year. They combine for only 567 yards on the year as a unit. To put that in perspective, if FAU RB Buddy Howell gets 15 carries tomorrow, at his current 6.9 yards per carry he can eclipse that number.
Offensive Players to Watch:
- 14, Michael White, R-Sr., QB: The best player WKU on the offense and possibly the best quarterback in Conference USA. Last year he exposed FAU’s secondary for 307 yards and three touchdowns. He has been on a hot streak, throwing 10 touchdowns in his last two games. Look for him to test with downfield passes an FAU secondary that will likely be without starting CB Raekwon Williams.
- 19, Deon Yelder, R-Sr., TE: One of White’s favorite targets. In his last two games Yelder has 10 receptions for 157 yards and two scores. White does like to throw to his tight ends this season and with Yelder’s size, 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, he is a big target.
- 11, Lucky Jackson, R-So. WR: Could be WKU’s most explosive receiver. Lucky is a big play target for White. He was the Hilltopper’s best receiver earlier in the year but in the last two games has only one reception for 11 yards. White will look to get him open deep against the Owls.
The Hilltoppers run a base 4-2-5, which is similar to what the Owls see every day in practice. Overall, WKU’s defense is pretty good, ranking 36th nationally in total defense while allowing 20 points per game. But WKU has not played a tough offensive opponent and there are many injuries on this side of the ball defense. FAU has shown it can run the ball against anyone, and with those injuries this defense is particularly vulnerable to a ground attack.
WKU Defense Players to Watch:
- 4, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, R-Jr., LB: The leading tackler on the WKU defense with 49 tackles, Iyiegbuniwe also leads the team with four tackles for a loss. He will be a key player in trying to stop FAU’s ninth ranked rushing offense. The Owls will need to account for him on each snap.
- 9, Drell Greene, JR DB: Leads the Hilltoppers with two interceptions getting both of them durign his last three games. He can be an impact against Driskel’s performance.
Bowl Watch: FAU still needs two wins to become bowl eligible, but with a win the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season. Keeping that from happening won’t be easy for the Owls. WKU is 14-2 in home conference games since joining Conference USA.