The Hilltoppers are 7-5 overall and 5-2 in Conference USA play but have a potent offense. They are led by transfer quarterback Austin Reed who has kept the offense humming in his first year with them.
Auburn (4-6, 2-5 SEC) is a one-score favorite over the Hilltoppers and has to win the game to keep their bowl hopes alive. Auburn’s defensive depth will be put to the test by an offense that loves to throw the ball and play quickly.
Here are five things to know about Western Kentucky before Saturday’s game in Jordan-Hare, which is set to start at 3 p.m. CT and will be on the SEC Network.
Austin Reed can sling it
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Just like Auburn, Western Kentucky went to the transfer portal to find their starting quarterback and they struck gold. Reed, a graduate transfer from the University of West Florida, has had a special season for the Hilltoppers.
He has completed 67.8% of his passes (299-441) for 3,548 yards, 31 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. He is averaging 40.1 attempts per game and 8.0 yards per attempt.
Auburn’s secondary will have to have a great game if Auburn is going to slow down the Hilltopper’s offense.
They will test Auburn's depth
Grayson Belanger/AU Athletics
Auburn has faced some of the fastest-playing teams in the country already and their depth will once again be tested Saturday.
The Hilltoppers run 2.4 plays per minute which is the 25th fastest rate in the country. Auburn’s defense will need to keep rotating players to ensure they have fresh bodies for the second half.
Thet are one of the best Group of Five teams in the country
(AP Photo/James Kenney)
The Hilltoppers are 7-5 with one-score losses to Indiana and UTSA. ESPN’s SP+ has them ranked as the 45th-best team in the country and as the fifth-best Group of Five team this season. They trail UCF (21) and Cincinnati (24) who are headed to the Big 12 and South Alabama (32), Tulane (34), and UTSA (44).
They can also run the ball
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
While the Hilltopper’s offense is built on their passing attack, their ground game is also worth watching.
They average 5.0 yards per carry, good enough for the 25th-best rate in the country. Kye Robichaux and Davion Ervin-Poindexter split the carries. Robichaux averages 6.79 yards per carry and both have three touchdowns on the season.
Their wide receivers are dangerous
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The Hilltoppers have a strong group of starting receivers. Malachi Corley leads the team in catches (70), yards (953), touchdowns (7), and yards per game (86.6).
Auburn cornerback DJ James will get to face his former Oregon teammate Daewood Davis who has taken off since joining the Hilltoppers. He has 60 catches, 837 yards, and seven touchdowns and leads the team in yards per reception (13.95).
Jaylen Hall and Michael Mathison have each caught at least 40 passes for 500 yards to round out the dangerous group.