Bahamas Bowl – Western Michigan Broncos (-3) versus Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Posted: December 30, 2015 in College football, Football
Tags: , ,

Popeyes-Bahamas-Bowl

This is the first ever meeting between these schools and this is the second Bahamas Bowl. This is Middle Tennessee’s fifth bowl game, with all of them coming in the last 10 years. They failed to get a bid last year, despite being eligible. Head coach Rick Stockstill has led them to all their bowl games and is 1-3 SU/ATS. This is also Western Michigan’s fifth bowl in the last 10 years and the first time they’ve ever been to back-to-back bowls. They lost the Idaho Potato Bowl to Air Force last year, 38-24 (-2) and were 0-3 SU/1-2 ATS in the three previous bowl games. This is Head coach PJ Fleck’s second bowl game.

Western Michigan surprised many by getting to a bowl game last year. They returned 16 starters, but faced a much tougher schedule this season. After opening up 1-3 with expected, but respectable losses to Michigan State and Ohio State, they reeled off five straight wins. Then came the brutal portion of their conference schedule and they lost to eventual MAC champion Bowling Green and then to the MAC West champion Northern Illinois. They then faced a Toledo team that needed a win to get to the MAC Title game and pulled the outright upset despite being over a touchdown ‘dog. The Bronco’s average 481 yards per game and are No. 19 in the FBS averaging 82 yards per game more then their foes allow on average. They are led on offense by third year starting quarterback Zach Terrell, who had another fine season, including four games with over 300 pass yards. Western Michigan’s pass defense is middle of the pack, and they are allowing 225 yards per game (54.8%) with a 21-9 ratio.

Middle Tennessee entered the season as a prime contender in CUSA as they had their best team in years and were coming off a six win season. They had 16 returning starters, including their quarterback Austin Grammer. Redshirt freshman Brent Stockstill (Rick’s son) beat out Grammer for the job and improved the position as he has had a fine season. Things looked bleak for the Blue Raiders early on as they started the season 2-4 after their loss at eventual CUSA champ Western Kentucky. They beat Florida International, then lost to CUSA West champ Louisiana Tech and were sitting at 3-5. Middle Tennessee closed the season with four straight wins, averaging 496 yards per game including 310 passing yards per game in that span. On the season they average 459 yards per game and Stockstill has thrown for 300 or more yards in seven games. Like Western Michigan, the Blue Raiders are also middle of the pack in terms of their pass defense (247 yards per game, 58%, 21-16).

Being in the Bahama’s in the winter can’t be a bad thing for either team. Last years Bahama’s bowl appeared to be a blowout as there was a 35 point margin in the fourth quarter, but it ended with a failed two point conversion at the end! Both teams were out-gained when going against other bowl teams as Western Michigan is minus 29.5 yards per game, while Middle Tennessee is minus 112 yards per game. These teams match up well and both have similar statistics, but the Bronco’s have faced a tougher schedule that featured eight bowl teams including Ohio State and Michigan.

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