Bowl Preview Bonanza, Part II

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BAHAMAS BOWL

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MTSU BLUE RAIDERS (7-5) vs. WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS (7-5)

Kickoff: 12 noon ET/9 a.m. PT, Thursday, Dec. 24

TV: ESPN

Las Vegas: Western Michigan -4.5

No matter how long the Bahamas Bowl lasts, the game’s first installment may forever be destined to be its best. Western Kentucky and Central Michigan put on an absolute show last Christmas Eve, one which MTSU and Western Michigan are hard-pressed to top.

Should the second annual Bahamas Bowl be one-fraction as entertaining as last year’s, however, it will be worth your time to tune in.

MTSU finished the regular season with a flourish, winning its final four games to guarantee a final record above .500. The Blue Raiders also guaranteed themselves a bowl bid, which hasn’t always been promised. This season is the fourth straight under Rick Stockstill MTSU reached bowl eligibility, but in 2012 and 2014, it was passed over for bids.

Count MTSU as one beneficiary of the recent bowl-game proliferation.

Stockstill’s son, Brent, quarterbacks the Blue Raider offense to the nation’s 17th-most prolific output, 310.4 yards per game, but MTSU’s success is contingent on defense.

In wins, the Blue Raiders held opponents to just 16.7 points per game. In losses, their opponents averaged 36.8. Western Michigan’s ability to force tempo offensively should give the Broncos an advantage.

MTSU needs Kevin Byard to make some momentum-turning plays. Otherwise, the Blue Raiders will be pulled into a back-and-forth reminiscent of last year’s Bahamas Bowl.

PREDICTION: WESTERN MICHIGAN 48, MTSU 45