Middle Tennessee (7–5) vs. Western Michigan (7–5)
Dec. 24, Noon ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch
How about fueling a burning jealousy that these people get to spend close to a week in the Bahamas in December? Oh, you meant a football reason. Well, this should be a pretty evenly matched game with offensive firepower on both sides of the ball, and shootouts are fun. It’ll also be an opportunity for TV airtime for Western Michigan’s mascot, Buster Bronco, which, upon further examination, looks less like a horse than a hippopotamus-squirrel hybrid.
Keep an eye on: Middle Tennessee freshman quarterback Brent Stockstill
The son of Blue Raiders coach Rich Stockstill threw for 3,678 yards and 27 touchdowns this season and was named Conference USA’s freshman of the year. For context: He had more passing yards than all but two Conference USA quarterbacks and the most passing yards of any freshman in the nation.
He also has a dynamic freshman receiver, Richie James, who caught 100 passes for 1,220 yards this season.
Did you know…?
After nearly losing his job in September (he missed three of six field goals early in the season), Western Michigan kicker Andrew Haldeman is on a streak of 11 straight. In MAC conference play, he went 13 of 14 on field goal attempts. And in what should be an evenly matched game, that could make all the difference. Haldeman, a senior, will leave Western Michigan with the school record for made field goals (56), and his 328 career points are eighth in MAC history.
If you’re off work and bored on Christmas Eve, this is the game for you. Sleep in, grab a bagel and settle in for the noon kickoff. As for the game itself, Western Michigan is favored by three over Middle Tennessee in a game that should have zero geographical advantage for either school. Both teams finished the regular season strong: The Blue Raiders are on a four-game winning streak; the Broncos won six of their last eight, including a 35–30 win over then-No. 24 Toledo on Nov. 27. Expect plenty of points; each team scored upwards of 50 twice this season (Middle Tennessee dropped 70 and 73 points in those instances), and neither has a defense that’s been anything close to consistent.