The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will be making their first-ever bowl appearance. Can the Central Michigan Chippewas, playing in their home state, spoil the party for WKU in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl?


The Hilltoppers can win because…
 

Antonio AndrewsThe Hilltoppers should play with great motivation, energy and a decidedly positive attitude. Despite less than stellar national rankings on offense, WKU features one of the top running backs - whom, incidentally, you may never have heard ofin the nation, Antonio Andrews. He has rushed for more than 1,600 yards, including 100+ yards in all but two games, and 11 touchdowns. He saved two of his best performances for two of the Sun Belt’s toughest opponents, rushing for 238 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette and 215 against Arkansas State. 

Andrews' accomplishments notwithstanding, the Hilltoppers rely primarily on a defense that ranks in the top 35 against the pass, against the run and overall. The Hilltoppers held conference champ Arkansas State to 13 points in a late September win, which at the time looked like it might spark a serious run at the conference crown. The pass rush averages over 2.5 sacks per game and practically lives in opponents’ backfields, averaging nearly 7.5 tackles for a loss per game. 

Coach Willie Taggart is no longer with the team, having taken the HC position at South Florida, but after last year’s omission from the postseason, you can expect the Hilltoppers to bolt from the gate in Detroit. Being snubbed last season ensures that Western Kentucky will play well the day after Christmas. 

The Chippewas can win because… 

Their opponent has shown some cracks on defense and might be distracted now that Willie Taggart has indeed left for another program. 

Western Kentucky, for all the ways in which it is a feel-good story, did not finish its season with strength or vigor. The Hilltoppers' defensive front was pushed around at the point of attack. As a result, WKU gave up point totals in the 30’s to teams such as Florida Atlantic, teams that had no business lighting up the scoreboard. Taggart prides himself on instilling a physical, rugged mentality in his teams – especially on defense – but Western Kentucky strayed from that identity late in the 2012 season. Even if you think that Western Kentucky is still an extension of its former coach, that claim doesn't mean that the Hilltoppers are guaranteed to play with physicality and great force in this contest. They could be vulnerable against Central Michigan's offense. 

At one point, Central Michigan was 4-6, but the Chippewas rallied to gain bowl eligibility and will be playing in their home state, which is a short drive from their campus. WKU won't be the only motivated team here as the Chippewas are going to be very, very happy to play in this game as well. In fact, they might play with more focus since Western Kentucky is going to wonder what life is like under incoming head coach Bobby Petrino. 

Outlook & NCAA Football Betting Prediction: 

Will Western Kentucky be distracted or not? That's the only question worth asking in relationship to this game's outcome? The sense here is that the Hilltoppers will play with great emotion and conviction. They will beat Central Michigan by at least two scores. 

NCAA Football Picks: Western Kentucky -5 at Bookmaker