Jan. 6, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Nation blogger Andrea Adelson’s take: Miami had the best turnaround in the country, going from 1-11 to 9-4 and MAC champions.
The RedHawks needed Ohio to lose to Kent State in its regular-season finale to get into the MAC title game and the Bobcats obliged. Mike Haywood has done an unbelievable job there, instilling discipline and making sure his players stay out of trouble off the field.
Up in the air is whether starting QB Zac Dysert will be ready for the bowl game. He has missed the last three games with a lacerated spleen. Redshirt freshman Austin Boucher has been good in his place, throwing for 333 yards in the MAC title game.
The defense has gotten better and better, and a huge key in this game is its ability to shut down the Middle Tennessee running game. That’s what Miami did to Northern Illinois in the MAC title game.
The Blue Raiders needed a win over FIU on Saturday to become bowl eligible for the second straight season. They were a popular preseason pick to win the Sun Belt, but then dynamic QB Dwight Dasher was suspended by the NCAA for the first four games of the season for improperly accepting a $1,500 loan. He wasn't the same after his return -- 6 TDs, 14 INTs, career-low 3.6 yards a carry -- although he had his best game of the season against the Panthers. Last season, Dasher had an awesome game in the New Orleans Bowl and became the fourth player in NCAA history last season to pass for more than 2,500 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards.
Middle Tennessee has had turnover problems all year, ranking last in the country in turnover margin. Miami has been one of the best.