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Kentucky Wildcats at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers: Open Game Thread

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After a long, hot summer, the college football season has arrived, and the Kentucky Wildcats kick off the 2011 football season against in-state foe, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Particulars are as follows, courtesy of UKAthletics.com:

Game Information
Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky
Thurs., Sept. 1 - 9:15 p.m. ET
Nashville, Tenn.
L.P. Field
UK Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | WKU Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: ESPNU
Radio: UK IMG
GameTracker
Live Audio

The Hilltoppers figure to be much better this year than the last couple of years where they were making the transition from FCS to FBS. The Toppers only managed a 2-10 season last year, but the bright spot in that poor record was the performance of junior (and now senior) running back Bobby Rainey, who was third in the FBS in rushing yardage last year, and racked up 184 yards in a largely futile but nonetheless impressive effort against Kentucky in the second game of the year last year.

Kentucky introduces a brand-new set of offensive players, and a brand-new defensive scheme. That would suggest a number of growing pains for the Wildcats, but unless Western manages a radical improvement, those growing pains are unlikely to jeopardize the game.

Here's what I'll be watching for:

  • How much leadership will Morgan Newton show?
  • Will the rushing defense really be improved? Rainey will certainly put that to the test.
  • Can the largely new cast of wide receivers get open, and more importantly, catch the ball.
  • How will return teams fare now that Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb are gone?
  • Will the new defensive scheme, and defensive coordinator, really make a difference?
  • I cannot wait to see Josh Clemons get some touches.

It's here, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation -- the moment you have been waiting for. Fall sports is back, and I don't know about you guys, but I am really excited about it.

Go, 'Cats!!!