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NCAA Bowl Previews: Little Caesars Bowl and Military Bowl

After the day off on Christmas, NCAA bowling season resumes on Wednesday with the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. This has Western Kentucky (7-5, 4-4) vs. Central Michigan (6-6, 4-4).

Fast forward to Saturday and it’s a full day. The Military Bowl will kick things off with the #24 San Jose St (10-2, 5-1) and Bowling Green (8-4, 6-2) match up.

Additional bowl games include the Belk Bowl Bowl with Cincinnati (-7, 60 o/u) vs. Duke and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl between Baylor and UCLA (-1, 81 o/u).

 Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan

WKU RB Antonio Andrews

This is a year of firsts for Western Kentucky as they’ve never been to a bowl game before.

The team has said goodbye to the coach that got them there: Willie Taggart left after three seasons to try South Florida. Next season, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino will be given a second chance when he takes over the team.

For Wednesday’s game, defensive coordinator Lance Guidry will serve as the interim coach. His defense has been integral in the team’s seven wins.

Western Kentucky led the conference with 31 sacks and was 12th among FBS teams with 7.42 tackles for loss per game.

Under his guidance, three players received all-conference first-team accolades with defensive lineman Quanterum Smith receiving the Sun Belt defensive player of the year honor. He led the FBS with his 1.25 sacks per game and a total of 12 1/2 from 10 games.

Unfortunately, he is out on Wednesday with a knee injury.

Western Kentucky’s offense can’t be ignored with running back Antonio Andrews; he is trying to set a single-season NCAA record for all-purpose yards. To date has has 1,609 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns along with 957 return yards for a combined 2,977 yards. He’ll need 274 additional yards to jump past Barry Sanders’ 1988 3,250 yards.

For Central Michigan, it’s another year, another Little Caesars Bowl as Wednesday’s game represents their fourth one. They sit 1-2 from 2006-08 when the bowl had been named the Motor City Bowl.

The team got off to a rough start in the season’s first half but the second half improved as the Chippewas have scored a minimum of 30 points in their last six games.

Quarterback Ryan Radcliff has a few weapons of choice: wide receivers Titus Davis and Cody Wilson with their combined 107 receptions, 1,599 yards and 10 scores. He also has some ground talent with running back Zurlon Tipton and his 1,391 yards (average 6.1 yards per carry) and 19 rushing touchdowns.

But it may not be enough as Western Kentucky may have beginner’s luck (-6, 57 o/u).

San Jose State vs. Bowling Green

SJSU DL Travis Johnson

In this game, look for a defensive battle as both teams will bring conference defensive players of the year and for Bowling Green, a seventh-ranked national defense with its 289.7 yards per game.

San Jose State has lineman Travis Johnson who won the WAC honors with his 12 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

Bowling Green tackle Chris Jones also had 19 tackles for loss and is the top MAC defensive player as well as No. 3 nationally 12 1/2 sacks.

But there’s more with Jones’ teammates also at the top of the WAC for tackles: linebackers Gabe Martin (69 tackles), Dwayne Woods (60) and Paul Swan (60).

Then there’s Bowling Green’s offense–not a strength (No. 11 in the conference with 373.9 yards per game). Quarterback Matt Schilz has 7,673 passing yards over his three years as a starter with 2,426 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 picks this season. Running back Anthon Samuel leads the team with 966 rushing yards, with greater production earlier in the season.

Fortunately San Jose State has a quarterback, David Fales. He sits as No. 7 nationally with his 3,798 passing yards and is tied for the WAC’s top spot with 31 touchdown passes.

His favorite targets include wide receivers Chandler Jones (10 touchdown receptions) and Noel Grigsby (nine receptions and 1,173 yards).

For this bowl, San Jose will have defensive coordinator Kent Baer at the helm as three-season coach Mike MacIntyre has moved on to Colorado.

This won’t be a bad thing as San Jose gets the nod (-7, 43.5 o/u).




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