WKU football blog: Florida Atlantic week

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Conference test:

When the 2008 season began, I circled what I thought was the most important game of the year on the WKU schedule.

It wasn’t at Kentucky, it wasn’t at Alabama or home to Ball State — it was Oct. 18 and home to defending Sun Belt and New Orleans Bowl champion Florida Atlantic.

And even though the Owls haven’t looked anything remotely close to a defending champion this season — they’ve struggled and limped to a 1-5 start — the chance to make a statement is still right there for the taking.

Regardless of its record, FAU is still very similar to the team that piled up nearly 4,000 passing yards last season and stunned Troy before knocking off Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl.

The Hilltoppers should be able to match up pound-for-pound with the Owls this Saturday. There won’t be any potential first-round NFL draft picks on the field, no 350-pound plus nose tackles that can slam dunk a basketball to deal with, and the game will be played at home.

WKU finished 1-2 against Sun Belt opponents last season, and lost two straight after gaining momentum with a mid-season win at Middle Tennessee. This portion of the schedule kicks off five straight games against the Hilltoppers’ future conference — all of them are winnable, and all of them will give an accurate measurement on where exactly this program is heading into its first official SBC year in 2009.

FAU scuffles:

Here’s something WKU and FAU fans might sympathize with each other on: people calling their teams dirty.

The Sun Belt had a messy situation on its hands recently when the Troy University sports information director sent in a nomination for injured Trojan quarterback Jamie Hampton for SBC Player of the Week. Hampton was lost for the season during an Oct. 7 game against the Owls, and ever since then, many of the Trojans have been crying foul play.

In fact, the Troy SID went as far as officially stating in his release that Hampton was unfortunately lost for the season. He then alleged that FAU defensive end Robert St. Clair “delivered a bulls-eye to Hampton’s knee.”

The Sun Belt has since sent an apology to FAU for the incident, as the league offices admitted that it failed to read over the release before sending it out officially.

A Rusty shoulder:

The Sun-Sentinel’s Ted Hutton reported earlier this week that FAU quarterback — and Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year — Rusty Smith recently admitted that he’s been playing much of the season with a separated left shoulder.

Smith said that his shoulder was separated during the Owls’ first game of the season, a 52-10 loss to current No. 1 Texas.

Smith has hardly looked like the player who threw for over 30 touchdowns and 3,500 yards last season — struggling through six games with just five touchdowns and a whopping nine interceptions (Smith threw just nine throughout all of 2007).

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