POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL STORYLINES
1. The inaugural Bahamas Bowl in Nassau pitting Central Michigan against Western Kentucky is the first FBS bowl game outside of either the United States or Canada since the 1937 Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba. Ironically, each team’s last trip to a bowl game came when they faced each other in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, where the Chippewas held off the Hilltoppers 24-21. The coincidences do not end there, as both schools were bowl-eligible last year but did not play in the postseason.
2. After serving one season under current Louisville coach Bobby Petrino at Western Kentucky, Jeff Brohm has turned the Hilltoppers into an offensive juggernaut in his first season at the helm. Western Kentucky ranks sixth in the country in scoring and total offense, helping the school notch its first-ever win over a ranked opponent in its last game – a 67-66 overtime triumph over then-undefeated No. 20 Marshall. The Hilltoppers closed the season with four straight victories, averaging 49.8 points and 530.8 yards during the winning streak.
3. The Chippewas counter with the top total defense, rush defense and pass defense in the Mid-American Conference, although that unit has been somewhat inconsistent. In handing eventual conference champion Northern Illinois its first home loss in 29 games and only setback inside the MAC on Oct. 11, Central Michigan held the league’s top rushing offense 142 yards below its season average. Two weeks earlier, Toledo’s 19th-ranked offense gutted the Chippewas for 543 yards and 42 points – both season highs against Central Michigan.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Western Kentucky -3.
ABOUT CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5, 5-3 MAC): The Chippewas own the 16th-ranked total defense in FBS and were particularly good during their 5-2 finish to the regular season, giving up no more than 129 rushing yards in any game and surrendering more than 233 passing once over that stretch. "No doubt it's been the best defense, it's been the best defense we have had by far," fourth-year coach Dan Enos told the school’s website. Central Michigan does not lack for offensive playmakers, however, as leading receiver Titus Davis is the only player in FBS history with eight or more touchdown receptions in four seasons.
ABOUT WESTERN KENTUCKY (7-5, 4-4 Conference USA): The Hilltoppers shattered 42 team and individual offensive records, many of which fell thanks to quarterback Brandon Doughty, who leads all FBS quarterbacks with 4,344 passing yards and 44 touchdowns. Doughty picked apart Marshall for 491 yards and a conference-record eight TDs, which allowed him to move into a four-way tie for 16th place in FBS history for the most passing scores in a single season. Western Kentucky also boasts a solid ground game led by Leon Allen, who ran for 650 of his 1,490 yards over the last three games – including a school-record 345-yard effort in a Nov. 15 win versus Army.
PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 52, Central Michigan 31