Bowl prediction record: 6-7 SU, 4-9 ATS, 7-5-1 O/U
Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Middle Tennessee (7-5), Nassau, noon, ESPN
Western Michigan – 5 – O/U 63.5
Like it’s MAC compatriot Akron, Western Michigan entered this season having never won a bowl game. Akron solved that problem already, and Western Michigan is hoping to join them. Their path seems a bit easier, as they enter the Bahamas Bowl as the clear favorite. Honestly, the difference between the two teams might not be so clear. Both teams score about 35 points a game. Both teams give up close to four TDs per game. The biggest difference might be that, while Western Michigan got some decent tests from good teams and actually won a couple of games against bowl teams, Middle Tennessee feasted on poor competition and gots its “signature” win against Marshall. Against actual winning FBS teams, Middle Tennessee lost by an average of 20-41. Western Michigan’s disparity is just 28-34. When it gets going, Middle Tennessee has a potent passing attack, spearheaded by QB Brent Stockstill (3,678 yards, 27 TDs) and WR Richie James (1,220 yards, 6 TDs). Defensively, the Blue Raiders will need big performances from LB T.T. Barber (62 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 4 sacks) and Kevin Byard (42 tackles, 4 INTs) in order to keep the game close. Western Michigan QB Zach Terrell (3,229 yards, 27 TDs) is an equally productive passer, and has one of the best receiving tandems in the country in WRs Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis (combined 185 receptions for 2,523 yards, 23 TDs). The rushing committee of RBs Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin (combined 289 carries for 1,535 yards, 17 TDs) is effective enough to keep the Middle Tennessee’s defense second-guessing. The strength of the Broncos’ defense is its secondary, led by Darius Phillips and Ronald Zamort. Prediction: Western Michigan 34, Middle Tennessee 24.
Cincinnati (7-5) vs. San Diego State (10-3), Honolulu, 8 p.m., ESPN
Cincinnati – 2 – O/U 56.5
The Mountain West champion gets no love in this contest. The Aztecs chewed up the relatively easy West Division of the Mountain West, running the table en route to a 9-3 regular-season record. San Diego State hasn’t played a ranked team this season and started 1-3, including a loss to South Alabama, a Sun Belt team that finished 5-7. Once they hit their conference schedule, the Aztecs never looked back, and have rolled off nine straight wins. Of course, only three of those wins came against winning teams. San Diego State will only pass when it has to, averaging less than 150 yards per game. QB Maxwell Smith’s main role is to hand the ball off to RBs Donnel Pumphrey and Chase Price (combined 461 carries for 2,594 yards, 25 TDs). The Aztecs are fairly strong on defense, only allowing 17 points per game, though winning teams average 28. CB Damontae Kazee (53 tackles, 7 INTs) is the Mountain West defensive player of the year and will spearhead a potent passing defense that will have its hands full with Cincinnati’s passing attack. While QB Gunner Kiel has had moments of greatness, he has not made the trip to Hawaii. Instead, Hayden Moore will get the nod, and he has also shined at times, including a 557-yard explosion against Memphis. The Bearcats don’t have a standout runner, but the three-man committee of Hosey Williams, Mike Boon and Tion Greene have combined for 2,100 yards and 20 TDs. Defensively, Cincinnati is porous, allowing 41 points per game to winning teams. They are especially bad on the ground, where good teams expect to pick up at least 200 yards per game. San Diego State may have the better record, but the experts are right on the spread. Cincinnati wins a close one. Prediction: Cincinnati 28, San Diego State 24.