Central Michigan v. Western Kentucky
Thomas Robinson Stadium — Nassau, Bahamas
December 24, 2014 — 12:00 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
Remember what we said about the Boca Raton Bowl, a duel of conference champions? This bowl features the two teams that dealt Northern Illinois and Marshall their only conferences losses this season. It pits a pair of teams with complimentary strengths and corresponding weaknesses, meaning that we could see a lot of points in the first of two island bowl games to bookend your Christmas Eve football watching. Sure, it’ll force you to pine for the Caribbean when you’re watching the action from the national stadium in Nassau. But if you can’t get even a little excited for these kids, what can you get excited about in this world?
What Each Team Brings to the Table
The Chippewas have regressed a bit from the days when Dan LeFevour was leading them to MAC titles, but they managed to do enough to convince the Bahamas Bowl to invite them south for the holidays. They don’t do a ton offensively, mediocre both passing (72nd nationally) and rushing (69th nationally) and averaging just 25 points per game. They left a few wins on the table, losing 32-29 at home to sub-.500 Ball State and against Big 12 also-ran Kansas to put bowl eligibility in question. But their uneven performance this season was buoyed by wins at Purdue (not so impressive) and at Northern Illinois (far more impressive, as it ended a 28-game Huskies home winning streak) to get to seven wins. Central Michigan’s defense is what saved it throughout the season. Their secondary will be the essential element in this game, having allowed just 6.66 yards per attempt and snagged 14 interceptions in the regular season.
The secondary is essential for Central Michigan because only two other teams in the country threw for more yards than Western Kentucky this season. The Hilltoppers averaged 365 yards per game through the air on the strength of Brandon Doughty’s arm. The senior quarterback completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 4344 yards and 44 touchdowns, and four different receivers have caught at least five touchdowns. But the attack is also balanced, with tailback Leon Allen running for nearly 1500 yards and adding 12 touchdowns on the ground. Where WKU is lacking is on the opposite side of the ball; only six other teams allowed more than the 39.3 points per game given up by the Hilltopper defense. They are a gutsy team, though, with the team handing Marshall its only loss of the season thanks to an overtime two-point conversion.
What is Likely to Happen
Academic issues are going to keep Central Michigan’s best tailback, Thomas Rawls, from traveling with the team to Nassau. That’s only going to make it tougher for the Chippewas to keep up with the Hilltoppers for 60 minutes. They’re certainly motivated to be in the Bahamas, but so is Western Kentucky Brandon Doughty should put in his 10th game of the season with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns. Leon Allen will go over 1500 yards for the season (he needs only 11 more yards to pass the mark) and could add another touchdown or two. The WKU defense will allow Cooper Rush and the CMU offense to stay in the game for a while, and the crowd in the Bahamas will be treated to a basketball score for its inaugural game.
Western Kentucky 59, Central Michigan 41