2014 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs Central Michigan Chippewas
Thomas Robinson Stadium – Nassau, Bahamas
Wednesday, December 24, 2014, 12:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Western Kentucky -2 1/2
Current Line: Western Kentucky -4
Opening Total: 65
Current Total: 68 1/2
Opening Money Line: WKU -185 / CMU +160
Current Money Line: WKU -180 / CMU +155
As far as subpar bowl games go, you could do worse as far as destinations go than the Bahamas on Christmas Eve. It is better than going to Boise or Detroit in late December, nothing against those fine cities. The 7-5 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and 7-5 Central Michigan Chippewas will compete in the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Wednesday afternoon in Nassau. This is only the second meeting between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan. The Chippewas won 24-21 in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
That was the only bowl appearance since WKU joined the FBS in 2009. Although the Hilltoppers have been bowl eligible the last 4 seasons.
Central Michigan is 3-4 all-time in bowl games. The Chippewas are playing in their fifth bowl game since 2006, and have won two straight. It is the first bowl appearance since the win over WKU in 2012.
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Western Kentucky is coached by Jeff Brohm. The Hilltoppers tied for third in the Conference USA East Division. WKU has road losses at Illinois 42-34, Middle Tennessee 50-47 in triple overtime, Florida Atlantic 45-38, and Louisiana Tech 59-10, along with a home loss to UAB 42-39. The Hilltoppers have won 4 straight games. WKU has home wins over Bowling Green 59-31, Old Dominion 66-51, UTEP 35-27, Army 52-24, and UTSA 45-7, and road wins over Navy 36-27, and Marshall 67-66 in overtime in the regular season finale. That was the only loss for Marshall this season. WKU is 6-6 ATS and the total is 8-3-1 this season. The Hilltoppers were 23.5 point underdogs against Marshall and the total was 75.5.
Central Michigan is coached by Dan Enos. The Chippewas finished 5-3 in the MAC West and were in fourth place. CMU has home losses to Syracuse 40-3, Ball State 32-29 and Western Michigan 32-20 in the last game of the regular season, along with road losses to Kansas 24-10, and Toledo 42-28. The loss to Western Michigan snapped a 3 game winning streak for the Chippewas. CMU has home wins over Chattanooga 20-16, Ohio 28-10, and Miami-(OH) 34-27, along with road wins over Purdue 38-17, Northern Illinois 34-17, Buffalo 20-14, and Eastern Michigan 38-7. The Chippewas are 5-7 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season. CMU was a pick against WMU and the total was 51.5.
Western Kentucky is outscoring teams 44-39 this season. The Hilltoppers are #6 in scoring nationally and #123 out of 128 FBS teams in points allowed. WKU is averaging 528 yards per game on offense including 365 passing and 163 rushing yards. The Hilltoppers are #6 in total offense and #3 in passing nationally. WKU is allowing 502 yards per game on offense, including 272 passing and 230 rushing. The Hilltoppers are #116 or worse in all three categories. WKU is +6 in turnovers with 22 takeaways. The Hilltoppers average 53 penalty yards per game and opponents average 56. WKU is 88/179 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 92/190. The Hilltoppers have forced 22 sacks and allowed 19 this season. WKU is 54/60 scoring in the red zone with 40 touchdowns and opponents are 46/61 with 29 touchdowns. The Hilltoppers have four pick sixes, a kick return and a fumble return for touchdowns, and have allowed 3 kick returns and a pick six.
WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty has completed 67.5% of his passes for 4,344 yards with 44 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Running back Leon Allen has 259 carries for 1490 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 46 catches for 431 yards and 3 touchdowns. Anthony Wales has 68 carries for 423 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus 14 catches for 115 yards.
Receiver Taywan Taylor has 44 catches for 739 yards and 7 touchdowns. Jared Dangerfield has 64 catches for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns. Willie McNeal has 51 catches for 511 yards and 7 touchdowns. Antwane Grant has 39 catches for 479 yards and 5 touchdowns. Mitchell Henry, Nicholas Norris, Joel German, and Tyler Higbee will also get a lot of catches. Higbee has 4 touchdown catches.
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Central Michigan is outscoring teams 25-23 this season. The Chippewas are #90 in scoring and #32 in points allowed. CMU is averaging 381 yards per game on offense including 222 passing and 129 rushing yards. The Chippewas are allowing 331 yards per game on defense including 211 passing and 120 rushing yards. CMU is in the top 20 nationally in both total and rush defense, and even the pass defense is #42. The Chippewas are -6 in turnovers with 20 takeaways but 26 giveaways. CMU averages 43 penalty yards per game as do opponents. The Chippewas are 70/163 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 72/183. CMU has forced 20 sacks and allowed 24 this season. The Chippewas are 39/47 scoring in the red zone with 32 touchdowns and opponents are 33/40 with 23 touchdowns. CMU has a pick six and has allowed a fumble return for a touchdown.
CMU quarterback Cooper Rush has completed 63.8% of his passes for 2,664 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Running back Thomas Rawls has 210 carries for 1,103 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 catches. Devon Spaulding has 65 carries for 359 yards and 4 touchdowns. Saylor Lavalli has 80 catches for 290 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 11 catches. Martez Walker has 53 carries for 197 yards and a touchdown.
Receiver Titus Davis has 54 catches for 843 yards and 9 touchdowns. Jesse Kroll has 32 catches for 473 yards and 4 touchdowns. Deon Butler has 26 catches for 355 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Rice has 27 catches fro 289 yards and a touchdown. Ben McCord has only 10 catches but 3 touchdowns.
Central Michigan is 4-0-1 ATS in Wednesday games, 4-1 after rushing for less than 100 rushing yards, 3-1-1 in bowl games, 5-2 after a straight up loss, 10-24-1 after failing to cover, 5-12 after a double digit home loss, 5-15-1 in non-conference games, and 1-5 on grass.
Western Kentucky is 4-0 ATS after allowing 450 total yards or more, 14-3 on grass, 9-3 after scoring more than 40 points, 6-2 after allowing 200 rushing yards or more, 19-9 after gaining more than 450 total yards, 2-5 after a cover and after allowing 40 points or more, 1-4 against teams with winning records, and 1-7 after allowing 280 passing yards or more.
Say what you will about Western Kentucky, but their combination of explosive offense and terrible defense leads to some exciting high scoring shootouts. There were at least 52 combined points in every WKU game this season. Central Michigan isn’t great on offense but they have a very strong defense. I think the Chippewas would be more content to play this game in the 20’s or 30’s. I don’t think CMU can contain the WKU offense though and the Hilltoppers win a shootout.