Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Pick – December 26th
The first post-Christmas bowl game will be the Little Caesars Bowl. This one pits the Central Michigan Chippewas (playing very close to home) against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky lost Coach Willie Taggart to USF recently. The school announced on Monday December 10 that Bobby Petrino will be the next coach for Western Kentucky. Will the Chippewas win with their home field advantage or will Western Kentucky win this one for the Sun Belt?
Central Michigan’s main campus is only a couple hours away from Detroit. The Chippewas hope to have a lot of supporters at Ford Field for this one. Central Michigan had an up and down season. The Chippewas stunned Iowa 32-31 in Iowa City, but they lost their next four games. They finished the season on a three-game winning streak to get into this bowl. Inconsistency plagued this team all year, and it will be interesting to see which Central Michigan team shows up on December 26.
Ryan Radcliff is a third-year starter under center for the Chippewas. Radcliff threw 20 touchdowns compared to just nine interceptions this year. Zurlon Tipton emerged as a very good tailback for the team. Tipton ran for 1,391 yards, and he averaged an impressive 6.1 yards per carry during the regular season. Central Michigan’s biggest problems came on the defensive side. The Chippewas allowed 33.3 points per game this year. They allowed more than 40 points in five different games.
It’s always tough to gauge how a team will react to their head coach leaving. Taggart did a great job with this program. He brought the team all the way out of the cellar and up to the upper echelon of the Sun Belt. The Hilltoppers started the season red hot, but they actually lost three of their last four games. They were 8-4 ATS this season. The strength of this Western Kentucky team is their defense. Western Kentucky ranked 23rd in the nation in total defense. The defensive front four was the best in the Sun Belt, and I think they’ll be able to dominate the Central Michigan offensive front in this matchup. Opponents averaged 25.6 points per game against Western Kentucky this year.
Kawaun Jakes stepped up his game quite a bit as quarterback of the Hilltoppers offense this year. Jakes completed 65 percent of his passes and threw 21 touchdowns. Still, it was the Hilltoppers running game that led the way. Antonio Andrews put up some amazing numbers. Andrews ran for 1,609 yards on the year, and he averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Jack Doyle is one of the top tight ends in the country, and he led this team in receptions. The Hilltoppers scored 28.8 points per game during the regular season.
Free Pick: Western Kentucky -5
The Sun Belt is a bit underrated as a conference, and Western Kentucky’s defense is much better than Central Michigan. I like the Hilltoppers to cover this one.
Western Kentucky 34 Central Michigan 24