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The Hilltoppers lost head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue, where he will look to channel the spirit of Drew Brees in turning around the Boilermakers. Along with Brohm, the program also lost a handful of impactful starters -- including a pair of record-breaking wide receivers and elite left tackle Forrest Lamp -- to graduation.
In spite of these high-profile defections, the Tops may actually be in prime position to chase the unbeaten season that has alluded them since Bobby Petrino -- on a foundation laid by Willie Taggart -- turned the program into a force to be reckoned with some four years ago.
Join us on this hypothetical road to perfection, won't you?
Sept. 2 -- vs. Eastern KentuckyOne of the more underrated rivalry games on the college football slate for 2017, the Battle of the Bluegrass pits two familiar foes for the first time in nine years. The 85th contest shouldn't be much of one. The Colonels will be improved this season, but the Hilltoppers are too much. WATCH LIVE (7 PM ET)
Sept. 9 -- at IllinoisIllinois isn't a world-beater, but a win over a Power Five school is always impressive for Group of Five programs -- and this will be no different. While Illinois figures to be solid on offense, Lovie Smith's defense has holes, and Mike White doesn't figure to be very forgiving.
Sept. 16 -- vs. Louisiana TechIn what may well be the game of the year within the league, Western Kentucky will face arguably its toughest challenge in this Skip Holtz-led Louisiana Tech team. The Bulldogs believe that the C-USA title will belong to them in 2017. Both teams will go fast and score a lot, but getting Louisiana Tech at home could be the difference for the Tops.
Sept. 23 -- vs. Ball StateThe recipe for success against the Cardinals is simple: contain All-MAC running back James Gilbert and watch as Mike White shreds a suspect Ball State secondary.
Oct. 7 -- vs. UTEPAthlon Sports' 120th-ranked team, UTEP won just four games a year ago and isn't close to a lock to match that win total in 2017. Western Kentucky wins big.
Oct. 14 -- vs. CharlotteCharlotte is young, but the 49ers are coming. While Charlotte is probably still a couple of years away from contention, WKU won't have the luxury of overlooking the former FCS program on homecoming weekend in Bowling Green.
Oct. 20 -- at Old DominionIf the Hilltoppers get past Louisiana Tech in week three, Old Dominion will likely represent the biggest conference hurdle on Western Kentucky's remaining schedule. The Monarchs have the league's best defensive line and a pair of strong running backs -- not to mention homefield advantage in this one.
Oct. 28 -- vs. Florida AtlanticA lot is expected from a Lane Kiffin-led program that has yet to choose a starting quarterback, but Jason Driskel and De'Andre Johnson both figure to offer the Owls an excellent option. The WKU secondary will be need to handle Kendal Briles' fast-paced attack and weather this storm.
Nov. 4 -- at VanderbiltThe second of two Power Five programs on the Tops' schedule, Vanderbilt broke hearts with a 31-30 overtime victory when the teams met in Bowling Green last season. On the road, in SEC country, Vanderbilt may represent the most difficult task on the schedule for Mike Sanford's team.
Nov. 11 -- at MarshallMarshall expects to be improved this season, but the Thundering Herd were downed 60-6 by the Hilltoppers in 2016 -- so it'd take a lot of improvement for this one to get interesting.
Nov. 17 -- vs. Middle TennesseeFurther evidence of how strong the C-USA is in 2017, Middle Tennessee poses yet another legitimate threat to the Tops near the end of the regular season. The Blue Raiders lost by a point in double overtime last season.
Nov. 24 -- at FIUButch Davis is back in college football, and Panthers fans hope he has a little South Florida magic left in the tank. It'll take more than a little bibbidi-bobbidi-boo for FIU to truly challenge Western Kentucky in its regular-season finale.
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