Middle Tennessee State (+8, 52) vs. Central Michigan 7:30 PM EST
By Alex Davis
A couple of teams with thin bowl histories meet in just such a game when the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (+8) take on the Central Michigan Chippewas in the Motor City Bowl tonight at Ford Field in Detroit (7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN).
For Central Michigan, this will be its first appearance in a bowl game since the Chippewas lost to UNLV 52-24 in the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl.
For Middle Tennessee State, this is its first bowl game since moving up to Division 1 college football eight years ago.
Central Michigan, in three seasons under head coach Brian Kelly, went from 4-7 in 2004 to 6-5 last season to 9-4 and MAC champs this season. The Chippewas began the season with losses at Boston College and at Michigan, but covered the spread both games.
CM then won two games in a row, lost at Kentucky (covering again), and then won five straight before losing at Northern Illinois. The Chips then won at Buffalo and beat the Ohio Bobcats 31-10 in the MAC title game three weeks ago, also at Ford Field.
But Kelly left the program shortly after the MAC championship game to take over as head coach at Cincinnati, so Central Michigan will be under the leadership of interim head coach Jeff Quinn, the team's offensive coordinator this season.
In its first season under new head coach Rick Stockstill, MTS finished at 6-1 in the Sun Belt Conference, tied for first place with Troy. But the Raiders lost to the Trojans 21-20 at home in the season finale, and thus lost out on the tie-breaker for the conference crown. Nonetheless, Stockstill guided MTS to its first winning season since 2001.
The Chippewas are 11-2 vs. the number this season, the best ATS record in college football. CM also went 7-2 ATS as favorites and 3-1 vs. the number when favored by seven points or more.
The Blue Raiders are 7-4 against the spread this season, and 2-2 ATS when getting seven points or more.
CM redshirt freshman QB Dan LeFevour piloted the best offense in the MAC this season, hitting on 64% of his passes and compiling a 25/10 TD/INT ratio.
MTS senior QB Clint Marks, with more than 30 career collegiate starts under his belt, hit on 59% of his passes this season and owns an 8/7 TD/INT ratio.
The Raiders' offense ranks just 105th (out of 119 Division 1 teams) at 283 total yards per game, while the Chippewas' defense ranks 69th by allowing 343 TYPG.
The Central Michigan offense ranks 31st in Division 1 by averaging 380 total yards per game, while the MTS defense ranks 53rd by allowing 326 yards per game.
Middle Tennessee is outrushing opponents this season by a 137-118 yards-per-game margin, while CM is getting outgrounded by a 133-128 yards per game average.
These two teams did not play any common opponents this season. For what it's worth, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals provide one link between Central Michigan and Middle Tennessee State. The Chippewas got beat at Kentucky 45-36 in Week 5, and Louisville defeated the Blue Raiders 44-17 the following week. The 'Ville also beat the Wildcats 59-28 in the season opener for both teams.
Middle Tennessee is +8 on the season in turnover margin, and ranks 15th in Division 1 with a 31:48 average time-of-possession. Central Michigan is +5 in the turnover category, but ranks dead last (again, out of 119 Division 1 teams) with an average time-of-possession of 26:52.
Blue Raiders games are averaging 46 points this season, with the O/U going 7-4 in those games. Chippewas games are averaging 52 points this season, and the O/U is 7-6 in those games.
The total in this game is 52 points.
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