Opponent Preview: Western Kentucky

In 2015, as in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Commodores will be starting their season at home on a Thursday night. While each of the previous Thursday night extravaganzas has resulted in a loss, hopes are high within the program that things will be different this time around as Western Kentucky comes to town.

2014 Record: 8-5 (4-4 C-USA) – Beat Central Michigan 49-48 in Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.

Series Record: Vanderbilt leads the overall series 3-0 with the last game being a Commodore win way back in 1938. The teams will double their series total with upcoming games in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Last Meeting: It is probably difficult to read anything into a game which happened back before the dawn of World War II. The 12-0 win was played at Dudley Field in Nashville and the Commodores went 6-3 on the season.

Head Coach: Jeff Brohm is entering his second season as the Hilltoppers head coach, having pasted an 8-5 (.615) win-loss record in his debut year. Brohm was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under former WKU head coach Bobby Petrino, before Petrino took the head coaching gig at Louisville.

Spring News: Western Kentucky is going to be a force on offense just by showing up with their talented skill position players. Therefore much of the work was done this spring on improving the defensive side of the ball so that slowing down opposition offenses will become easier. Brohm appears quietly confident that a defensive unit which was awful in nearly all the major categories last year will be much improved after an intensive spring of coaching.

Projected Strengths: Western Kentucky received a huge boost prior to their bowl game last fall when it was announced that quarterback Brandon Doughty had been granted a sixth-year of eligibility by the NCAA. Doughty is the reigning Conference USA player of the year after leading the nation with 4,344 passing yards and 44 touchdown passes in 2014. Even in the loaded SEC it is fair to say that Doughty is one of the top quarterbacks who Vandy will face this fall.

The Toppers had a gift fall into their hand on the defensive line when UAB decided to shut down their football program at the completion of their 2014 campaign. The Blazers players all became available for transfer AND immediately eligible, which is why WKU will be able to plug senior Jontavious Morris into one of their trouble spots from last year. Morris immediately upgrades this defensive line and the defensive unit as a whole.

Projected Weaknesses: The offensive line has some talent, but putting that talent into positions which will create the best unit has been a problem this spring. Having graduated both the starting center and the starting right tackle from last year, WKU has only left tackle Forrest Lamp who seems set in his position. With just the summer and fall camp to go this is becoming a worry for the Hilltoppers.

The defense may be improved, but only a vast improvement would stop it being anything other than a weakness compared to the Tops lights out offense. The secondary lost its best player to graduation (Cam Thomas) and for the back end to be improved at all the players at corner back and safety are going to have to step up in a way which would be at odds with their performances last fall.

Prediction: There is no doubt this is going to be a tricky game for the Commodores. Western Kentucky is better in every single way than Temple was when they showed up in Nashville last fall and we all know how that played out. In order to win this game Vanderbilt is going to have to keep its offense on the field with large doses of Ralph Webb chewing up the clock and keeping the Hilltopper’s high octane offense off the field. If that happens then Vandy will win. If, however, the quarterback problems come back, again, then it is hard to see how Vanderbilt can score enough points to beat the Hilltoppers.

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