Western Kentucky returns home following back-to-back road games, most recently a 31-24 victory at Miami (Oh.), where it will face its second SEC foe of the season. While the Hilltoppers fell at top-ranked and heavily-favored Alabama two weeks ago, the team the week as a touchdown favorite over visiting Vanderbilt.
Under the direction of third-year head coach Derek Mason, who also serves as the team's defensive coordinator, Vanderbilt has built a reputation for having a stingy defense. Last fall, WKU's trip to Nashville resulted in a defensive battle, with the Hilltoppers prevailing 14-12.
"This week we have a great opponent," WKU head coach Jeff Brohm said. "This is a very good football team. They match up very well against us. Really, their defense is outstanding. They held us to our lowest output last year. We didn't turn the ball over last year and they still held us to 14 points."
The Hilltoppers struggled to gain 246 total yards of offense in last season's meeting, while the defense thwarted a trio of Vanderbilt trips into the red zone, highlighted by a pair of WKU interceptions. The defense also held up against an attempted two-point conversion that would have tied the game with under a minute to play.
While WKU is known for its high-octane offense, Brohm acknowledged that it was the play of the defense that secured a victory, saying that they performed "very, very well last year" and that the defense "won the turnover battle and that's what really won us the game."
He anticipates a similar offensive struggle in this meeting, admitting that Vanderbilt presents "a lot of challenges for us. We've got to find a way to come ready and find a way to score points."
The school is anticipating a sold-out and raucous crowd at Houchens-Smith Stadium for the highly visible contest on Saturday afternoon.
"The opportunity to have an SEC opponent come into our stadium is something that we are looking forward to and I think our fans are," Brohm said. "We've got to come ready to play. It'll be a tough challenge, but its something we're looking forward to."
The challenge has been made a bit more difficult with the loss of senior offensive lineman Forrest Lamp, who suffered an injured leg during the win at Miami.
During his weekly press conference, Brohm said that the Outland Award Trophy watchlist member will be out for an "extended period of time."
The loss will be notable.
"He's been the rock of our team," Brohm said. "It'll hurt our team not having his leadership."
Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally on the CBS Sports Network.