DETROIT – The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl will pit the MAC's 6-6 Central Michigan Chippewas against the Sun Belt's 7-5 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at Ford Field in Detroit.
Even without head coach Willie Taggart (accepted same position at USF), the Hilltoppers should enjoy their first bowl trip. Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry will lead WKU and then make room for ex-Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino to step in.
Neither team was impressive in the regular season, though each defeated a BCS AQ school as Central Michigan topped Iowa and Western Kentucky squeaked past Kentucky. The Hilltoppers also handed Arkansas State its only loss and their only nonconference loss came at Alabama.
The Chippewas got here by closing their campaign a 3-game winning streak and winning four of their last five over the bottom three teams from the MAC East (Miami, Akron and Massachusetts), and the last-place team in the MAC west (Eastern Michigan). CMU didn't win a single game all year against a team that finished with more than 4 wins.
This year will mark the Chippewas' first return to Detroit since their 24-21 loss to FAU in the 2008 Little Caesars Bowl.
Western Kentucky is led by running back Antonio Andrews, the national leader in all-purpose yards at 248 yards per game, and defensive lineman Quanterus Smith, who leads the nation in sacks. Andrews is only 273 yards shy of eclipsing Barry Sanders' NCAA all-purpose yardage record.
CMU is led by the Mid-American Conference's (MAC) second leading overall scorer and touchdown leader, running back Zurlon Tipton. Defensive back Jahleel Addae is tied for second in the conference in interceptions (4) for 2012.
Western Kentucky's appearance will be the fourth by a Sun Belt Conference team in the Detroit bowl. The MAC has been represented each year since this bowl's inaugural season in 1997 and this will be Central Michigan's fourth appearance. The Chips made back-to-back-to-back appearances here from 2006 to 2008 under then-head coach Brian Kelly (2006) and Butch Jones (2007 and 2008).
Sun Belt teams have won the last two times they have played in this game - FAU in 2008 and FIU in 2010. Middle Tennessee lost in 2006 to Central Michigan.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Congrove Computer Rankings project Western Kentucky as a 9.37-point winner in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.