2014 Bahamas Bowl: Breaking Down The WKU Hilltoppers With Insider Fletcher Keel


The Central Michigan Chippewas will play in their 2nd bowl game in three seasons when they kickoff in the Bahamas Bowl on Christmas Eve and they will face a familiar opponent. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will attempt to win their first FBS bowl by avenging their 2012 loss to the Chips in the Little Ceasers Pizza Bowl.

We asked Fletcher Keel, editor of FanSided’s Wave The Red Towel, a site dedicated to the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky, to weigh in on the match-up with the Central Michigan Chippewas.

DJC: The Hilltoppers have been making some noise since joining division 1. What factor would you consider key to WKU footballs success?

"Keel: That’s kind of difficult to answer. The success of the program seemed to happen over night. They were one of the worst teams in FBS when they joined – winning only two games over their first two years at the big boy level – and started the 2011 season 0-4 before rattling off five straight wins, and winning seven of their last eight (the only of those losses coming to #1 LSU in Baton Rouge), ultimately (and, rather famously) getting snubbed for a bowl game. Ever since, they’ve been bowl eligible year in and year out. The success just kind of steamrolled – once the team realized they could win, they did it. Even more impressive when this is a team that has had three head coaches over the past three years."

DJC: Which players should CMU look out for in the Bahamas Bowl match-up and why?

"Keel: First and foremost, quarterback Brandon Doughty. He’s among the top QBs in the nation in numbers and set a multitude of school records – both single season and career marks – this year. He’s completed 344 passes for 4,344 yards and 44 touchdowns. Just insane numbers.His favorite target is Jared Dangerfield, but the most successful target is Taywan Taylor. The entire Hilltopper receiving  corps is dangerous though, so pick a guy and he’s a weapon the Tops will use.Finally, we can’t forget running back Leon Allen. He’s the third WKU running back (Bobby Rainey and Antonio Andrews preceded him – both are now playing on Sundays) to be a 1,000 yard rusher, and earlier this year he set the C-USA record for rushing yards in a game against Army (345). This is a WKU offense that ranks 3rd in the entire country in passing yards per game and sixth in points per game. You’re gonna see scores. Lots of scores."

DJC: What aspect of the Chippewa offense is the most troublesome for the Hilltopper defensive game plan?

"Keel: I’m honestly not too sure. It might have been a clearer answer a few weeks ago, when the defense was struggling mightily, but over the past four games, they’ve really stepped up and played solid. Even in a game in which they allowed 66 points to Marshall, they still sacked and picked off 1st Team All-CUSA QB Rakeem Cato, giving him all sorts of fits.The biggest thing that might throw the defense off is a balanced attack. They’re really good at planning to stop either the run or the pass, but if you keep them honest and off-balance, the Chips will be able to find some success."

DJC: What’s the buzz around the WKU campus? Are the Hilltopper faithful confident in their teams chances for a win?

"Keel: Its a mix of relief and disbelief. Relief because, as I said, this is the fourth year the Tops have been bowl eligible at the FBS level and its only the second bowl game they’ve gotten an invite to (the 2012 Little Ceasers Bowl), so seeing yet another 7+ win record finally get a postseason game is a relief. Disbelief in the way that this was a team that started 2-4 and lost to Louisiana Tech 59-10. Most thought the season was over at that point, but instead of rolling over, they won four in a row.As for confidence, there is all sorts of confidence in the offence. Theres always the question over the defense, but there is a lot of excitement to exact revenge on CMU after 2012."

DJC: What is your prediction for the game?

"Keel: The Tops will score points, that much is for sure. However, will the defense allow Central Michigan to walk all over them, like Marshall did, or will they buckle down and blow the Chips out of the water? It’ll be a double-digit Hilltopper win as they earn their first ever FBS bowl game."

Next: CMU Preview With Wave The Red Towel