Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan (6, 57)
LITTLE CAESARS BOWL STORYLINES
1. Western Kentucky makes its first bowl appearance in history as a program in transition. Coach Willie Taggart left to take the South Florida job, disgraced former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino takes over the Hilltoppers, but defensive coordinator Lance Guidry will guide the team in the bowl game.
2. Central Michigan saved its best football for a 13-day stretch in November. The Chippewas were 3-6 after losing to Western Michigan, but won three games in less than two weeks starting with a 34-31 victory over Eastern Michigan on Nov. 10. A 42-21 triumph at Massachusetts moved Central Michigan to 6-6 on the season.
3. The Chippewas average 29.3 points; the Hilltoppers 28.8. The big difference comes on defense. Western Kentucky allows 25.6 points per game (second in the Sun Belt Conference), while Central Michigan surrenders 33.3. Western Kentucky struggled on defense down the stretch, allowing 30-plus points four times in six games to go 2-4. Losing senior defensive end Quanterus Smith (12 sacks) to a torn left ACL in the next-to-last game was a big blow.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: Western Kentucky -6, O/U 57
CONSENSUS: Nearly 55 percent of Covers Consensus players are backing Western Kentucky and 58 percent like the over.
* Hilltoppers are 11-2 ATS in their last 13 games following a win.
* Chippewas are 1-10 ATS in their last 11 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Under is 4-1 in Chippewas’ last five December games.
* Over is 4-1 in Hilltoppers’ last five games following a win.
ABOUT WESTERN KENTUCKY (7-5, 4-4 Sun Belt): Junior running back Antonio Andrews comes in after two monster rushing games, finishing with 238 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette and 230 yards against North Texas. The Sun Belt’s leading rusher with 1,609 yards this season, Andrews has three games of 200-plus yards and leads the conference by averaging 248.1 all-purpose yards. The Hilltoppers have been particularly tough on opposing running games, holding opponents to only 136.6 yards on the ground (second in the conference). Junior linebacker Andrew Jackson leads Western Kentucky and ranks second in the conference in tackles (116).
ABOUT CENTRAL MICHIGAN (6-4, 4-4 MAC): The Chippewas make their fourth appearance in the Detroit bowl since 2006, going 1-2. They have running back Zurlon Tipton to thank for helping fuel their last-season sprint. The junior rushed for 185 yards and four touchdowns in the victory over Massachusetts, and has rushed for 110 or more yards in six consecutive games. Tipton rushed for 1,391 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Ryan Radcliff (2,905 yards, 20 touchdowns) finished third in the MAC in passing yards. Sophomore linebacker Justin Cherocci averaged 10.3 tackles per game, fourth in the conference.