1. It's difficult to get a read on what type of team Rice is. Are they the second best team in the West Division or as bad as the loss to Baylor indicates? That's a question that I suspect that the WKU coaching staff and players are wondering as they prep for the program's first-ever meeting with the Owls. Despite the eye-popping 70-17 loss at Baylor last weekend, Rice is not a team to sleep on. Having won at least seven games the past three season, the Owls know what it takes to win. The blowout loss will certainly have them stinging and ready to prove that was simply a hiccup.
2. Is what we saw from the defense against Miami of Ohio a indication of things to come during conference play? The Hilltoppers defense held the Redhawks to 291 yards of offense, with more than half of the coming in the second half and WKU ahead by five touchdowns. Building a quick lead against Miami forced the Redhawks out of their gameplan and allowed the defense to become more aggressive and attack the quarterback. If WKU is able to buld a quick lead against Rice, another large victory could be on tap. The Rice passing attack has struggled this season, making a comeback through the air more difficult.
3. Is Anthony Wales expected back for this game? WKU head coach Jeff Brohm said on Monday that "he's hopeful" that Wales will be available to play this weekend. Wales return would bolster a running attack that has featured D'Andre Ferby since the season-ending injury to Leon Allen. His speed and elusiveness will compliment the power running by Ferby.
4. What's the key matchup against Rice? How well the WKU defensive front does stopping the Owl rushing attack will dictact how the contest flows. Rice has rushed the ball nearly twice as many times as they've thrown it this season. The Owls top Conference USA with an average of 228 yards per game. Following its best outing of the season, when they held Miami to 123 yards, the Tops defense will face its toughest ground attack of the season this weekend.
5. Let's be honest, can Rice slow down the Hilltoppers offense? It's going to be difficult. With the exception of Vanderbilt, a top 40 defense nationally, in the season opener, the Hilltoppers offense has hardly been slowed. Racking up nearly 500 yards per game, the WKU offense is difficult for anyone to tame and with Rice giving up over 480 yards, the only ones able to slow the WKU offense is WKU itself. Take care of the ball and limit penalities and the Hilltoppers offense should have no problem finding the end zone frequently.