LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – You won’t find the Western Kentucky football team on Phil Steele’s list of Most Improved College Football teams for 2015, a list that includes 15 programs.

Western did not qualify because the Hilltoppers closed the 2014 season by toppling unbeaten Marshall and Central Michigan.

That bumped WKU to 8-5 – and the Hilltoppers were this close to beating Illinois, Middle Tennessee and UAB. Steele does not consider any team coming off a winning season eligible for his list.

But consider this: What if the Hilltoppers bounce into Nashville Sept. 3 and open their season by handling Vanderbilt on the SEC Network? WKU is only a 2 ½-point underdog.

WKU has started its season by defeating a Southeastern Conference program in Nashville before, right? Last season Vandy looked as if it was back to being Vandy.

Then WKU returns to Bowling Green to open its home schedule against Louisiana Tech, a team that lost its defensive coordinator (Manny Diaz) and could be relying on erratic arm of Florida transfer Jeff Driskel at quarterback.

Who do you like in a quarterback shootout – Driskel or Brandon Doughty of WKU?

Each threw 10 interceptions last season. Doughty edged Driskel in touchdown passes – by 40, 49-9.

To get to 3-0, Western Kentucky needs to roll into Memorial Stadium in Bloomington and handle Indiana. Chris Andrews is a former oddsmaker who publishes the magazine AgainstTheNumber.com. He has WKU listed as a 2-point favorite over the Hoosiers, with a win probability of 57 percent.

A victory by WKU would hardly be outrageous

Evidently, Andrews noticed WKU threw for 374 yards per game last season while Indiana’s defense allowed 251 yards passing. First team to 60 wins that one.


Try Miami (Ohio), which has charged to two victories and 22 losses the last two seasons.

That’s how Western can get to 4-0.

That won’t put the Hilltoppers on Phil Steele’s Most Improved list, but it would put coach Jeff Brohm’s team on the Talk of the Town list.

Today is a perfect time to talk WKU football because Brohm and Doughty are visiting Louisville Monday and Tuesday. The coach and the quarterback are scheduled to appear on the WDRB News at 10 Monday evening and then return to the studio for WDRB in the Morning on Tuesday. They’ll also be at the Louisville Bats’ game Monday night.

A flurry of media appearances will conclude with a Kickoff Party Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at Buffalo Wild Wings, 4600 Shelbyville Road.

The Hilltoppers are already feeling the love on the regional and national levels. Athlon as well as The Sporting News college football preview issues pick WKU to win the East Division of Conference USA.

Phil Steele and ESPN dissent, but not by much. They forecast WKU finishing second to Marshall, a team the Hilltoppers play in Bowling Green this season.

WKU fans can find more reasons for high fives. ESPN ranks the Hilltoppers the 57th best team in the nation.

Not impressed? Think of it this way: WKU sits ahead of half the 14 teams in the Big Ten and three programs from the Atlantic Coast Conference (Syracuse, Wake Forest and Boston College).

This isn’t the Western Kentucky that lost to Florida 49-3 (2007) or to Tennessee 63-7 (2009). Western even has an opportunity for a real Shock the World Moment when the Hilltoppers visit Louisiana State Oct. 24.

"It's a pressure we've never had," Doughty told Nate Taylor of the Sun-Sentinel during CUSA football media day in South Florida last week.

"We've always been the underdog and teams have always kind of looked down on us. Being picked to win is an honor. It's a pressure that we need. We're excited about it."

As they should be.

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