Hot spots: Holiday bowl games equal parts attractive venues and hot action

12/24/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak

It wouldn't be Christmas Eve without college football. Two games will be played this year, the traditional Hawaii Bowl and the new Bahamas Bowl. Let's take a look at what's on tap.
Bahamas Bowl
Central Michigan vs Western Kentucky Dec. 24th @12pm

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College football ventures outside of the continental USA for the first time since 1937, as the 7 and 5 Chippewas meet the 7 and 5 Hilltoppers. Central Michigan finished 4th in the MAC's West Division, while Western Kentucky placed 3rd in the East Division of Conference-USA. For the Hilltoppers, there's been a lot of points in their games. Western Kentucky averages 44 points per game, but gives up an average of 39.3 points against. It's been a little lower scoring for the Chippewas, who average 25.2 points per game and give up 23.2 points against. Western Kentucky is led by QB Brandon Doughty, who was the MVP of Conference-USA. Doughty passed for 4,344 yards and threw 44 touchdown passes in 2014. Leon Allen paced the Hilltoppers on the ground, rushing for 1,490 yards and scoring 12 TD's. Central Michigan will lean on RB Thomas Rawls, who ran for 1,103 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. This is a rematch of the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which Central Michigan won 24 to 21. This is also the first bowl game to be played outside of the North America since the Barcardi Bowl was played in Cuba 78 years ago.
Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State vs Rice Dec 24th @8pm
The 7 and 5 Owls finished second in the West Division of Conference USA, while Fresno State, at 6 and 7 were the only team to qualify for a bowl game with a sub .500 record. However, the Bulldogs actually won the West Division of the Mountain West Conference. Both of these teams give up more than they score, as Fresno State averages 28.1 points per game and give up an average of 32.6 points against. Rice averages 28.7 points per game and gives up an average of 30.3 points against. Fresno State's "Big 3" include RB Marteze Waller, who rushed for 1,292 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. QB Brian Burrell passed for 2,576 yards and threw 22 scoring passes. Burrell's favorite target was Josh Harper, who caught 86 passes for 1,072 yards and 7 TD's. Rice is led by quarterback Driphus Jackson, who threw for 2,524 yards and 21 touchdowns. Both of these teams started the season losing their first 3 games. Fresno State would in their next three, before dropping the three after that, and finished winning 3 of their final four games. Rice won 6 in a row to follow their season opening losing streak, but dropped 2 of their final 3 regular season games.

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