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2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Picks: Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan
by Trevor Whenham - 12/12/2012

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Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews

2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Western Kentucky (-5) vs. Central Michigan
Dec. 26, 2012, 7:30 p.m. ET
Detroit, Michigan

There have been some good matchups in past editions of this bowl. In 2008 Rusty Smith and Dan LeFevour put on a nice QB duel. Three years earlier DeAngelo Williams capped off a stellar college career by carrying the ball 238 yards and scoring three times as Memphis beat Akron in a thriller. There have been other compelling, intriguing games. On paper at least, this is not one of those matchups. The game falls the day after Christmas, but it’s not likely to be a big present for college football fans. One team just isn’t very good, and the other, while better, is going through a high-profile and very distracting coaching change.

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The Basics

Western Kentucky - Through six games the Hilltoppers were 5-1, and their lone loss came to Alabama, so there was no shame in that. Three of those wins were on the road and came against Kentucky and Arkansas State, so this team was very legitimate early on. In their seventh game they lost to Louisiana Monroe in overtime, and that seems to have knocked the team off their game. They limped home at just 2-4, including losses when they were favored by 9.5 and 15.5 points. They finished the season with a win, but it was only 25-24 and they were favored by 11. They were 6-0 ATS in the opening half of the season, but just 2-4 ATS in the second half. Coach Willie Taggart rode his success at Western Kentucky to a new job at South Florida at the end of the season, so he won’t be in charge of the team here. Bobby Petrino is the controversial new hire, but he’s not in charge yet. That leaves defensive coordinator Lance Guidry as the lame duck man in charge. The star of the team is junior running back Antonio Andrews. He rushed for more than 1,600 yards, caught more than 400 more, and scored a total of 14 touchdowns. He finished the season strong with 468 yards and three scores in his last two games.

Central Michigan - The Chippewas needed a win in their last game just to finish 6-6 and become bowl eligible. They actually won four of their last five, but that had as much to do with a weaker schedule than dramatically better play. They did have one solid win on the season, though — they won at Iowa in Week 3. They were just 5-7 ATS on the season. They should be very comfortable in this bowl game — this is the fourth time in seven years that this has been their bowl destination. Head coach Dan Enos is in his third year with this team, but he will be leading the team into his first bowl game. It’s a junior running back that will be the focus here as well — junior Zurlon Tipton ran for almost 1,400 yards and 20 touchdowns, and accounted for almost all of the team’s rushing yards.

Key Factors

Western Kentucky coaching change - There is a whole lot of excitement around this team about having a guy like Petrino taking over. That’s a massive get for this team, and it only happened because the guy is a slimeball. Players will inevitably be looking forward to next year, so Guidry is in a very tough situation here. The advantage he has, though, is that he has been through this before — he was the interim head coach for Miami of Ohio in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in 2011, and he led the team to a win.

Weak Chippewa defense - Luckily, the Hilltoppers won’t have to be completely focused to score on this lousy Chippewa defense. They rank 99th in the country in points allowed with more than 33 per game and 95th in total yards allowed. Western Kentucky doesn’t have a dominant offense, but they can run the ball, and they should be able to do that almost at will in this game.

Central Michigan proximity - CMU hasn’t played in a bowl game in three years, and they are playing close to home, so their fan support should be strong — at least compared to Western Kentucky. The fanbase isn’t at its most enthusiastic right now, though, and the attendance has fallen the more they have played in this game, so it would be easy to give the Chippewas too much credit for the location.

2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Picks and Betting Predictions

I don’t really like where either of these teams are at, and I don’t look forward to the matchup at all. However, I can’t go against Western Kentucky. They have the better record and they have better wins, and though they aren’t wildly explosive they are good enough to exploit the lousy Central Michigan defense. If the spread was more than a touchdown I’d have to consider it more, but at this price the Hilltoppers are the sound pick.

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