December 26, 2011

Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Reason to watch: Little Caesars has delivered more than pizza in recent years. The chain's bowl game has delivered thrilling finishes each of the last four seasons, with the outcome being decided by an average of three points. This year, the game features one of the nation's most exciting offenses in Western Michigan, which averaged 35.6 points per game in the regular season. And while the Broncos score in bunches, they also allow points just as easily. Purdue scored 80 points over its final three games and should be able to take advantage of one of the weakest defenses in the postseason. But Western Michigan boasts a unique edge: motivation. The Broncos are playing just 140 miles from their Kalamazoo campus and will likely have many fans in attendance as the school chases its first bowl victory.

Keep an eye on: Western Michigan wide receiver Jordan White. Tim Tebow isn't the only Bronco turning heads these days. White led the nation in receptions (127) and yards (1,646) this season while reeling in 16 touchdowns. The sixth-year senior surpassed the receiving century mark in nine of 12 games and racked up nine touchdowns in his last four contest. And now, the All-American has a chance to make MAC history in Detroit. With just 110 more yards (White averaged 163.5 over the last four games), White will become the conference's all-time leading receiver.

Did you know: Purdue's last bowl appearance came four years ago in Detroit against a MAC opponent from Michigan. Sound familiar? The Boilers are hoping history repeats itself, as the school earned a 51-48 win over Central Michigan in the 2007 shootout.

Final analysis: Purdue head coach Danny Hope got an early Christmas gift in the form of a two-year extension the Friday before his first bowl game since taking over in West Lafayette. If it hadn't been for the Boilers' generosity, the third-year coach (15-21) would have been under a lot of pressure to win the game. Now, Hope doesn't have to worry about his job being on the line -- which could be a good thing. Top running back Ralph Bolden (knee injury) is out against the Broncos, as is receiver O.J. Ross (team rules). Purdue's defense packs some punch, but its offense will struggle to keep up with Western Michigan's attack, which generates 456.2 yards per game.

The pick: Western Michigan 48, Purdue 38

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)