Preview: The Hilltoppers vs. Central Arkansas

By Matthew Hargrove

Western Kentucky does not want to repeat what they did in last year’s home opener. 

The Tops played an FCS team in the Maine Bears, in which Western was the heavy favorite to win. Long story short, The Hilltoppers blew a 21-0 lead losing 31-28. It lead to a 3-9 record and one of the most embarrassing seasons in Hilltopper history. Thursday night, the Tops get another crack at an FCS team on home opening night with this time facing the Central Arkansas Bears. 

The biggest headline entering this game was WKU’s head coach, Tyson Helton,  during his first ever game as a head coach. He already has love from the Western fans considering he was the offensive coordinator for the Hilltoppers from 2014-15 when he helped the squad rank 24th nationally. A 1-0 start to the season would increase that high passion for the former Tennessee offensive coordinator and it would the first time the Hilltoppers have been over .500 since November 17, 2017.

The Western player with the heavy spotlight and arguably the most pressure on him is quarterback Steven Duncan. Duncan had a very inconsistent 2018 year, as he was fighting for the starting job with Davis Shanley. Duncan had a 57.8 completion percentage, threw nine touchdowns and 1,071 yards, which ranked 10th in Conference-USA last season. It’s no secret that the most important position in football has been very poor since the Mike White era, but maybe Helton, who has worked with multiple NFL quarterbacks such as Mike White, Sam Darnold, Brandon Doughty, and Joe Webb, can show bring light to the end of the tunnel for the position.

ESPN’s Football Power Index has Western having an 89.7% chance to beat the Bears, and considering what happened last year there is no excuse to lose this game. Even if the Tops are suppose to win by a lot it is officially game day and the start of another beautiful season of what makes the world go round — college football.

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