Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee Prediction, Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Preview

If you like offense, here you go with Western Michigan (7-5) and it’s high-powered attack ready to bomb away against a Middle Tennessee (7-5) team that can wing it around the yard. Check out the Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee prediction and Popeyes Bahamas Bowl game preview.

Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee Game Preview


Date: Thursday, December 24

Game Time: 12:00 pm ET
Network: ESPN
Venue: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
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Why You Need To Care

Just two years ago, Western Michigan was among the worst teams in college football, if not the worst. New head coach P.J. Fleck appeared overmatched as his Broncos went 1-11 with losses to Nicholls State and Eastern Michigan along the way. Things have changed dramatically over the last two seasons with the offense finding a good balance and plenty of pop, while the defense has steadily improved.

It’s been a frustrating year even with the key win over Toledo to close out the regular season – key for the Rockets, anyway. WMU has a nice win over CMU to go along with the Toledo victory, but tough games against Michigan State, Ohio State, Northern Illinois and Bowling Green turned out to be too much, even for a team as solid as this one.

Just the seventh bowl game in school history, the Broncos have yet to win one. Most of them have been close, but still, there’s no bowl game trophy case.

Middle Tennessee’s is lonely with just a 2010 GoDaddy.com Bowl win over Miami University among the four bowls in school history. The other three – 2006 Motor City, 2009 New Orleans and 2013 Armed Forces – were all double-digit losses, but this team has the talent and ability to come up with a defining win.

The Blue Raiders come in red hot winning four straight after a blowout loss to Louisiana Tech. The five losses on the year aren’t bad – Alabama, Illinois, Vanderbilt, WKU and Louisiana Tech, with four of them on the road – but Marshall is the lone interesting win. This is a team in need of validation, but whatever – the offense can put up points in bunches, and that’s all that matters in this bowl.

Last year turned out to be the best bowl of the season – and it also happened to be the inaugural Popeyes Bahama Bowl – with WKU holding off a miraculous Central Michigan comeback. This one isn’t going to be as crazy, but there will be plenty of fireworks with these two attacks.

Why Western Michigan Will Win

Your offense can’t do much from the sidelines, and Western Michigan has a way of keeping opposing team’s attacks off the field for long periods of time.

When the Bronco offense is humming, it’s a balanced attack that cranks out long drives, connects on the third down chances with ease – hitting close to 48% of its chances on the year – and controls the clock ranking second in the nation in time of possession holding it for 34:32 per game. Middle Tennessee can strike quickly, but it’s also good at controlling the game when the offense is working. WMU should be able to throw the Blue Raiders off of their rhythm.

Not helping Middle Tennessee’s cause is the field position battle with the worst punting game in college football. The Blue Raiders can’t return punts, the kickoff return game is just okay, and the punting is just woeful averaging just 31.5 yards per kick. WMU is great at taking advantage of easy scoring opportunities, and it should have plenty of short fields to work with.

Why Middle Tennessee Will Win

Time to get throwing.

The Western Michigan secondary isn’t anything special and can be hit deep – the Blue Raiders won’t have any problems cranking up the production. The ground game worked, too, over the last few weeks outscoring North Texas and UTSA by a combined score of 83 to 14, but it was Brent Stockstill and the passing game that made it all happen connecting on a ridiculous 54-of-71 passes (76%). WMU has only been hit for over 300 yards twice and won both games against Murray State and Central Michigan, but it gave up two touchdown passes or more in seven games, losing five of them. Middle Tennessee has thrown two touchdown passes or more eight times, winning five of those games.

Player Who Matters

Brent Stockstill is only 6-0 and 200 pounds, but he’s a big-time bomber who stepped up as a freshman and showed off the maturity and poise of someone who’s been coached well – he’s the son of head coach Rick Stockstill. Not a big recruit – literally or figuratively – he ripped it up right away with 348 yards and four scores in the opener against Jackson State. He set several school records completing 301-of-451 passes (67%) for 3,678 yards and 27 touchdowns with eight picks, throwing for 250 yards or more in every game but the loss to Alabama.

Making life easier for Stockstill is the receiving tandem of freshman Richie James and senior Ed’Marques Batties, who combined for 177 catches for 2,180 and 19 scores. Batties is the scorer with 13 touchdowns, while James is the steady playmaker with 100 grabs.

Western Michigan has a 100-catch receiver of its own in Daniel Braverman, who came up with 103 grabs for 1,270 yards and 12 scores, while Corey Davis caught 82 passes for 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns. These two have been major playmakers all season long helped by having a veteran quarterback in Zach Terrell, who threw two touchdown passes or more in ten of the 12 games. Last year he threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns in the post-season loss to Air Force, and now he’s looking to be the first WMU quarterback to win a bowl game.

What’s Going To Happen?

It’s the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, and it has a lot to live up to after last year’s WKU-Central Michigan classic. There’s no way this can be the same sort of game, but there will be lots and lots of passing yards and lots and lots of points. Expect a wide-open game that’s fun for a full sixty minutes with Western Michigan controlling things a little bit more and getting the ground game going just enough to take over in the fourth quarter.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Prediction

Prediction: Western Michigan 38, Middle Tennessee 31, Line: Western Michigan -3, o/u: 63.5
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