Two-Star Tuesday: Brandon Doughty nears the end of a superb collegiate career

WKU strikes back with TD to cut LSU lead

Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty finds Antwane Grant wide open for the 39-yard touchdown to cut LSU's lead to 17-14.

What more can Brandon Doughty do?

Western Kentucky's sixth-year gunslinger is only the third quarterback in FBS history to throw for more than 4,000 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. Doughty leads the nation in a handful of passing categories, ahead of Heisman contenders and first-round NFL locks. No one in the FBS has a better completion percentage either.

Oh, and he just torched Marshall, the defending Conference USA champion, for 370 yards and five touchdowns, putting the Hilltoppers in Saturday's C-USA title game against Southern Mississippi.

But no matter what Doughty does at this level, nagging questions will shadow him through the offseason into the NFL combine.

What do those glittery numbers mean outside of a Power 5 conference? Does he have the athleticism or arm strength to succeed at the next level? And what about those other C-USA stat-stuffers that have yet to mature into reliable NFL starters?

"The name I hear [myself compared to] a lot is Case Keenum," Doughty told ESPN's Brian Bennett in October. "But I truly think I'm more versatile. I understand the game, and I'm not just a spread guy. I'm a guy who has had to [learn] multiple offenses, and I've been successful in multiple offenses, so that's going to help me at the next level."

As it stands, Doughty is projected to go somewhere in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

"Has great ball placement and often looks unfazed by pressure," reads a recent ESPN scouting report. "But doesn't offer big-time arm strength. Competition level is also a concern."

Meanwhile, Mel Kiper has him as the ninth-best quarterback prospect in the class, but one of the most underrated players across all positions in the draft.

It's all evidence of the contradictory nature of the NFL Draft. More straight-forward is the Hilltoppers' success over the last half-decade. In 2009, the program finished 0-12. They enter Saturday's game against the Golden Eagles at 10-2 and have a win over Vanderbilt from the SEC. The Toppers' two losses have come on the road against Indiana and LSU. In his second year, head coach Jeff Brohm has preached consistency and execution, and Doughty is one of his chief evangelists.

"It's been an unbelievable growth," Doughty said. "I think what's helped us, is that Coach Brohm keeps it one play, one game at a time and not trying to get ahead of ourselves."

The C-USA title game might not affect where the Hilltoppers play their bowl game. They're currently slated in one of the Florida bowls -- the Miami Beach Bowl is the current front-runner according to ESPN's latest bowl projections -- and they could draw 10-2 Temple from the AAC.

But for a player LSU head coach Les Miles said was "every bit an SEC quarterback," Doughty will still face conventional doubts about his abilities.

"Since his athleticism is not superior, we drill a lot of move-the-pocket stuff...," Brohm said, "but he's been able to slide and create just a little more time for guys to get open, and that's really helped his game."

Doughty should get a chance to prove himself within the NFL's relative meritocracy. Take Derek Carr, for example. After excelling at Fresno State in the Mountain West, Carr still faced doubts about his collegiate record and was considered a reach by ESPN Insider when he was taken by Oakland at No. 36 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.

"He shows below-average poise and frequently fails to follow through with defenders in his face," reads a portion of Carr's draft performance.

Last Sunday, Carr threw a game-winning touchdown with a little more than a minute left on the clock to give the Raiders a comeback win over the Titans. Carr's poise has been one of his biggest strengths in the NFL.

Doughty might be less than a year away from following in his footsteps. But Southern Miss comes first.

"The goal was not to win the East. It was to win the dang conference championship," Doughty said after Saturday's win over Marshall. "We've got one more game, man. And it's all right there, and I can taste it, almost."