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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Likes and Dislikes

Five and Five: Western Kentucky

What are five things I like about Western Kentucky in 2010? What about five things I don’t? This list has all the answers.


1. Willie Taggart’s enthusiasm. The new Western Kentucky coach — and former quarterback and assistant — will face a stiff challenge in bringing W.K.U. to respectability, but he is tackling the assignment with, as his former boss at Stanford would put it, “enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

2. The ease with which quarterback Brett Pelesasa has seemingly grasped the offense in his short stint with the Hilltoppers. His play has lessened the impact of Kawaun Jakes’s ankle injury.

3. The moves to a pro-style offense and 4-3 defense, as compared to last season’s spread offense and 3-4 system. If the Hilltoppers can even come close to duplicating the success Stanford had offensively in 2009, they could upset a few teams in the Sun Belt.

4. Tight end Jack Doyle and running back Bobby Rainey. Both should look at the opportunity to play in a pro-style offense as a blessing. Each could earn all-Sun Belt honors in 2010.

5. Seven players with starting experience returning in the back seven on defense. One of the seven, Orlando Misaalefua, will move down from safety to outside linebacker.


1. A lack of talent, even when held against the rest of the Sun Belt. Recruiting has picked up, so this fact should change within a year or two, but W.K.U. remains near the bottom of the country’s weakest conference in terms of its talent level.

2. A bad defensive line. Far too undersized to compete against the top offenses in the Sun Belt, let alone the four non-conference opponents Western Kentucky will play in September.

3. A lack of play makers at receiver. Redshirt freshman Willie McNeal may provide a spark, but the receiver corps as whole needs work.

4. The schedule. A 0-4 September will be unavoidable. If W.K.U. does not win a game in October, the Hilltoppers might be looking at another 0-12 finish. At best, W.K.U. will win three games.

5. While it’s more experienced, the youth on this roster makes W.K.U. a work in progress. Maybe 2011 will be the year the Hilltoppers challenge in the Sun Belt.

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