TODAY’S BOWL GAMES
• Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan (7-5) vs. Western Kentucky (7-5)
Time: 9 a.m. PST. Location: Nassau, Bahamas. TV: ESPN.
The buzz: The first bowl game played in the Bahamas is a rematch of the 2012 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl that Central Michigan won in a much less exotic venue. The Chippewas have won three of their past four games entering the bowl. The team leans on its stout defense, which ranks No. 32 nationally in points allowed per game (23.2). Linebacker Justin Cherocci, who earned first team All-Mid-American Conference honors, leads the team with 107 stops. Senior running back Thomas Rawls anchors the offense, delivering 1,103 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Western Kentucky enters the game on a four-game win streak, including a 67-66 overtime victory at Marshall that broke up the Thundering Herd’s shot at an undefeated season. Senior quarterback Brandon Doughty is the prolific leader of the Hilltoppers’ offense, passing for 4,344 yards and 44 touchdowns. The team ranks No. 3 nationally in passing yards per game (365) and sixth in points per game (44). The only problem for Western Kentucky is its defense ranks among the bottom 10 in the nation in points allowed per game (39.3).
• Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State (6-7) vs. Rice (7-5)
Time: 5 p.m. PST. Location: Honolulu. TV: ESPN.
The buzz: Rice and Fresno State are both making their second trips to Hawaii this season. The trek to Honolulu is tough during the regular season, so the NCAA allows teams to play 13 games any time they schedule the Warriors, which explains how the Bulldogs enter the bowl with a 6-7 record. Fresno State is working to snap a five-game bowl losing streak and claim its first postseason win since 2007. Quarterback Brian Burrell leads the Fresno State offense, recording 2,576 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, while tailback Marteze Waller has added 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns. The team has struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone, ranking No. 101 nationally out of 125 teams in points allowed per game (32.6). Rice used a six-game midseason win streak to clinch bowl eligibility. After a tough stretch from 1961 to 2006, the Owls have made regular bowl appearances. The team has won two of its past three bowl games. While it’s not flashy on either side of the ball, Rice’s roster is full of players like defensive lineman Brian Nordstrom. He is a former walk-on majoring in civil engineering who earned first team All-Conference USA honors this season. Nordstrom enters the bowl game with 18.5 tackles for a loss, the second-highest tally in school history.