Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan
Dec. 26, 7:30pm (ET), ESPN
Ford Field (Detroit, MI)
Line: Western Kentucky -5 1/2
Western Kentucky has come a long way in a short time as an FBS football playing school. That hard work and shrewd hiring of Willie Taggart will pay off on Wednesday as they play in their first ever bowl game! Too bad Taggart won't be there to see it happen in person. However, we'll get to see on Bobby Petrino on the sidelines watching his new team play for the first time. No, he won't be coaching in this one, but at least he'll be around and that makes this game worth watching in and of itself.
Add in the fact that these two teams aren't known as defensive juggernauts and this could be one of the most entertaining games you're not thinking of in the bowl season.
Sexiness: Maggie Gyllenhaal - Maggie isn't even the most famous member of her own family and these teams aren't even the most famous in their respective states, however they are capable of some very pretty things and hey, let's face it Gyllenhaal is HOT, in that librarian, geeky sorta way. If you're watching this one it's safe to say you're a college football geek yourself (hey, there's nothing wrong with that, we're all CFB geeks here ourselves), so you've got something sorta, maybe... not really in common with Ms. Gyllenhaal.
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Aces: What is the identity of any Harbaugh disciple? Running the football, right? Well, the Hilltoppers do that and do that very well as they rank 41st in the country in rushing yards per game (186.2ypg). The biggest reason behind that is perhaps the only 1,600 yard plus running back you've never heard of in the country, Antonio Andrews. He rushed for 1,609 yards, averaged 5.8 yards a carry and had 11 touchdowns on the regular season. They'll need him to control the clock and be explosive in this one if they are to be successful.
Deuces: While this team does a lot right offensively, they also have an Achilles heel to them and that comes in the form of turnovers. They've fumbled the ball 21 times, losing 12 of them and have 12 interceptions on the year as well. All of that adds up to a team that averages 2 turnovers a game and that can be dangerous against any team. If they don't limit the turnovers on Wednesday it could spell the end to the best season in Hilltoppers FBS history.
Wildcard: Look out for WKU to get after the quarterback against the Chippewas and it could be a big time battle in the trenches as the Hilltoppers have 31 sacks on the year, but are going against an offensive line that's only allowed 14 sacks all year. If WKU can get some pressure early it could be a major factor in winning the game.
Aces: When you think of Central Michigan football you think of the passing game and you'd be dead on once again this year as Ryan Radcliff threw for over 2,900 yards and had 20TD's to just 9INT's on the year. If this team is going to be successful in it's home state then it needs to Radcliff to be on his game against a tough WKU defense.
Deuces: It's the Chips' defense all the way around. Frankly, it's never good when you are giving up more points (33.3) than you are scoring (29.3) on the year and it wasn't just games outside of the MAC that gave them trouble defensively. In five of their six losses CMU gave up more than 40 points and in all of their losses they gave up 31 points or more, not exactly a recipe for success if you ask me.
Wildcard: Running back Kurlon Tipton is an explosive threat when they run the ball, averaging over 6 yards a carry, but the issue is they don't run the football with him on a consistent enough basis (19 carries a game). If they can get him out in space a bit he's got the ability to break some big time runs and that could help slow down the WKU pass rush a lot.
So you don’t forget...: It won't be the first ever game as a head coach for WKU's Lance Guidry, who was the interim head coach for Miami (OH) in the 2011 GoDaddy.com bowl, so he's 1-0 in those games. The loss of Taggart is a factor you can't ignore as you never really know how a team responds to the ole interim coach thing in bowl season. It could come down to who takes bowl game prep the most serious.
Crystal Ball: This game is going to be a complete clash of styles to say the least. Whomever dictates their style of play will win this one. Sorry, I don't have any more insightful analysis, but in a matchup such as this one it's really the case. If CMU can stay out of 3rd and long situations they will eat up a passing defense that hasn't been regularly tested this season. CMU needs to force 3rd and long out of WKU and make them pass the ball. I see WKU's front seven on defense as better than Central Michigan's and for that I give them the edge in winning this one.
Score: Western Kentucky 31, Central Michigan 24