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The View From the Hilltop

Will be on here on Friday from Louisville, Kentucky with a preview and prediction of Saturday's game between FIU and WKU.

Before we get to a look at the Hilltoppers from WKU beat writer Nick Baumgardner, here are a couple ofOwens practice notes that could play a part in Saturday's game.

Daunte Owens (right) continues to get more reps in practice and MC said he could see DO becoming a part of an RB rotation with Darian Mallary after Darriet Perry. DO has shown he can break some runs in the past (North Texas and Troy games last season) and with a little bigger size than DM, he could help out. MC said DM is still going to get his carries, because if he gets any kind of opening he can go for 6 from any point on the field.

Freshman linebacker Kenny Dillard (left) is seeing more practice time this week as he heals from an ankle injury. KD was the Herald's Defensive Player of the Year last season at Miami Northwestern. MC says about KD: "There is a guy that has to Kdill play."

Here is Nick's take on the WKU Hilltoppers and what FIU can expect on Saturday:

1) How much better is QB Kawaun Jakes than Brandon Smith and what has he done for the WKU offense?


In a word – infinitely. Jakes has shown the ability not only to make throws while under pressure, but also the ability to escape pressure, buy time with his feet and execute the zone-read option properly. Though he's only a redshirt freshman and Smith a fifth-year senior, Jakes seems immensely calmer and much more under control during the game.


He's got quicker feet and probably a better arm. There really isn't much of a comparison at this point. The biggest thing he seems to have done for the offense is give people some confidence. It didn't get any worse than the first three games offensively for WKU, and having a bright spot to cling onto has definitely brightened some spirits. But, he's only started one game, so we'll see how it continues.



2) Are the nearly 300 rushing yards per game given up by the Toppers D a result of a tough early scheduleWku or a lack of talent?


I'd have to say both. Navy obviously runs the ball more than just about anyone in the country, Tennessee wanted to run the ball heavily in the season-opener and Matt Grothe absolutely made a difference in the loss to South Florida. But more than that, WKU is extremely small and inexperienced up front – and has gotten virtually no production from its defensive line.


The inside linebackers play tough, but too often it seems they're fighting off two or three blockers at a time. This isn't anything new, as the Hilltoppers were basically handed their lunch on a weekly basis when it came to opposition's rush attacks last season. It's been an ongoing problem, and so far, they haven't found a solution.


Jakes 3) Who else on offense besides Jakes (left) should the FIU D keep an eye on this Saturday?


Senior receiver Jake Gaebler makes his return this week after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. He's something around 20 catches away from setting the school record for career receptions, and obviously the team's top wideout.


Outside of that, sophomore running back Bobby Rainey can be pretty electric if and when he gets rolling. Health and ball security have always been issues for him (he didn't play in this game last season), but when he gets things clicking, he's as good as any back in the league.


4) What are WKU's strengths and weaknesses this season so far?


There really haven't been many strengths to speak of. There have been flashes of strengths, but nothing consistent enough to call a true positive. WKU has been handled in basically all four games this season, and it wasn't until last week that the Hilltoppers finally showed signs of life.


If nothing else, I think for the first time this year the team has hope. As far as weaknesses go, the overall youth of the squad has presented a problem. The defense starts just two seniors and most of the primary backups are redshirt freshman, sophomores or juniors who haven't played much. And more than anything, Tywku the offensive and defensive lines have yet to put together four solid quarters of football.


5) Your prediction and score?


I think WKU is getting close to snapping that massive losing skid (now a nation-long 12 games), but I don't think it'll happen this week. FIU seems to have too much talent and too many playmakers. I think it'll be close, but I'll side with Paul McCall and T.Y. Hilton.


FIU 24, WKU 21







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