Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6)
Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. ET, Detroit (ESPN)
Western Kentucky take from SEC blogger Edward Aschoff: After a 5-1 start for the Hilltoppers, they finished the season losing four of their last six, including three in a row before finishing the season with a 25-24 comeback win against North Texas.
Despite finishing fifth in the Sun Belt Conference, Western Kentucky gave Sun Belt champ Arkansas State its lone conference loss with a 26-13 win in Jonesboro, Ark.
The Hilltoppers had one of the nation’s best statistical running backs. Antonio Andrews not only led the Sun Belt with 1,614 yards but ranked sixth nationally. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry and scored 11 touchdowns.
Western Kentucky owned the Sun Belt’s top defense, allowing a conference-low 342.8 yards per game and was equipped with the conference’s top sack artist in defensive lineman Quanterus Smith (12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss).
Central Michigan take by Wolverine Nation's Chantel Jennings: The Chippewas showed their potential in a 32-31 early-season win over Iowa, scoring on a 47-yard field goal by David Harman with three seconds left to earn the victory.
The early momentum didn’t last, however, as Central Michigan went 2-5 through its first seven games. The Chippewas turned it around, however, and finished 4-1 in their final five games to finish 6-6 in a surprisingly deep MAC.
Keying the turnaround was talented junior running back Zurlon Tipton, who ran for 12 touchdowns in the last five games and finished the regular season with 1,391 yards and 19 touchdowns. Balancing out the offensive attack were senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff and his two favorite receivers -- sophomore Titus Davis and senior Cody Wilson. Radcliff threw 20 touchdown passes, eight to Davis.