The Hilltoppers travel back to Texas to face North Texas on Thursday night

WKU Insider provides a preview of the Hilltoppers trip to North Texas for a Thursday night Conference USA contest

Date: Oct. 15, 2015
Game Time: 11:00 a.m.
Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton, Tx.
Television:
CBS Sports Network
  Play by Play: John Sadek
  Analyst: Randy Cross
 Sideline: Melanie Collins

About the Hilltoppers and Mean Green:

  • The game pits Conference USA's top-rated offense against the league's least effective defense.  WKU leads the league with 511 yards per game, while the North Texas defense surrenders 547 yards.
  • WKU enters Thursday night's contest as one of the nation's more potent offensive units. The Hilltoppers rank No.3 in passing offense, No.8 in scoring offense and 13th in total offense.  WKU is Conference USA's top-rated offense.
  • The same type of offensive success can't be said of North Texas.  The Mean Green fell to 0-5 following a 66-7 loss to Portland State, an FCS program, last weekend.  Garnering just 331 yards per outing, North Texas currently sits at No.113 in total offense.
  • The loss at home to Portland State was the largest margin of defeat at home in school history.
  • Through six games, WKU has tallied 253 points, tying last year’s school-record mark through six.
  • North Texas offensive coordinator Mike Canales has been named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. It is the second stint for Canales as the Mean Green’s interim head coach, as he coached the final five games in 2010, notching a 2-3 record.
  • During Canales previous tenure as interim head coach, the Mean Green offense production grew from 17 points per game to 34 points during his five game run.
  • QB DaMarcus Smith will face his former team in WKU. Smith, spent two seasons at WKU in 2012 and 2013. He played in five games with WKU in 2013. Through three games thus far at North Texas, Smith is 6-for-18 for 105 yards and one touchdown.
  • While the WKU defense still ranks closer to the bottom than the top at No.105 in total defense, there has been noticable improvement.  The Hilltoppers nine interceptions has WKU among the nation's leaders in the category and help fuel a team that is No.1 in the country turnover margin.  The Hilltoppers are also proving difficult to score against, checking in at No.10 in red zone defense. Opponents have scored only 11 touchdowns, along with four field goals, on 21 red zone appearances.
  • WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty surpassed the 10,000 career yards mark last weekend.  Through six games, the senior is among the nation's top five in multiple categories.
  • Carlos Harris notched his fifth 100-yard receiving game with 136 yards and nine grabs against Southern Miss.
  • Over their last three games, the Hilltoppers have taken 42 (Miami), 25 (Rice) and 38 (Middle Tennessee) point leads into the break. WKU is outscoring its opponent’s 191-68 in the game’s opening half this season and boast the second-most first half points in the country behind only Baylor.
  • WKU wide receiver Taywan Taylor's 691 yards is tops in C-USA and the fourth highest total in the nation.  His eight touchdown receptions is also fourth in the nation, with his 115 yards per game coming in at No.9 in the country.
  • Hilltoppers senior Tyler Higbee remains the nation's top catching tight end with 459 yards this season. He has scored a touchdown in four straight games.

For the Mean Green to win:

  • North Texas will need the stars to be aligned properly and/or interim head coach Mike Canales needs to work some extremely quick magic to turn the program around. He'll likely hope magic arrives in the form of former Hilltopper and dual-threat quarterback DaMarcus Smith.
  • Force turnovers.  WKU's only loss this season was a nail-biter and turnovers played a significant role. 
  • Special teams suprise.  A kickoff or punt return for a touchdown.  Maybe a forced turnover.  The Mean Green will need to win the special teams phase.

For the Hilltoppers to win:

  • No letdown. WKU needs to take care of business without excessive penalties or turnovers.
  • Contain. If North Texas gives DaMarcus Smith to pass and run at anytime, the Hilltoppers defense must stay focused and limit his ability to make a big play on the ground.
  • Score quick, score often. The recipe for success this season has been in building a quick lead.  Do the same on Thursday and a similar result should follow.

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