With less than a month until the first bowl game is played, the first matchup has been announced. The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl will see the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and the Western Michigan Broncos will square up in Nassau, just 184 miles away from Miami, Florida. This matchup of the Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference will take place at Thomas Robinson Stadium on December 24th, Christmas Eve.
Middle Tennessee had a strong year, finishing the year with a 7-5 record and going 6-2 in conference play. Led by quarterback Brent Stockstill, the Blue Raiders had key wins against Marshall, which went to triple overtime, and Florida Atlantic to propel them into bowl eligibility. This is Middle Tennessee’s first bowl game since 2013 when they faced Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl. Middle Tennessee would lose to Navy, 24-6. In their six career bowl games, Middle Tennessee has went 2-4, with their most recent bowl win coming in the 2009 New Orleans Bowl against Southern Mississippi.
Western Michigan also had a successful year, going 7-5 and 6-2 in conference play, just as Middle Tennessee did. In their final game of the year, Western Michigan made a statement as they took down the Toledo Rockets, ranked 24th at the time, in an upset victory on the road to add to their resume. Quarterback Zach Terrell helped get the Broncos to a winning record with his 3300 total purpose yards this season. Western Michigan is looking to make up for their 38-24 loss to Air Force in last year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Western Michigan has lost in all six bowl games it has played in and they are looking to change that this year in the Bahamas.
In last year’s inaugural Bahamas Bowl, it was quite a thriller between Central Michigan and Western Kentucky. Western Kentucky came out on top, 49-48, but not without Central Michigan scoring 34 consecutive points in the fourth quarter capped off by a 25 yard touchdown pass as time expired. Instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game, Central Michigan went for a two point conversion to win and failed. Hopefully Western Michigan and Middle Tennessee can provide another thriller in this year's game.