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Bahamas Bowl 2014: Full Predictions for Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 24 Dec 2014

The Central Michigan Chippewas and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers didn't enjoy the most successful of seasons, but each squad was rewarded with a trip to Nassau for the first-ever Bahamas Bowl, Wednesday at noon.Each team had its fair share of struggles this season. The Chippewas finished in fourth place in the MAC West, as losses to Toledo, Western Michigan and Ball State hurt their standing in the conference.The Hilltoppers were just 4-4 in Conference USA, though they did take down Marshall in the Thundering Herd's only loss of the season. That was an overtime thriller, resulting in a 67-66 win for Western Kentucky.There isn't much familiarity between the two teams. The last time they met was in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, a game that was won by the Chippewas, 24-21. Will we see a similar result this time around'Below are a few predictions as to what might go down in the Bahamas on Christmas Eve.Brandon Doughty Will Carve Up Central MichiganThe Hilltoppers rank sixth in the nation in points scored per game (44) and third in passing yards per game (365). That's almost entirely because of senior quarterback Brandon Doughty.In his sixth year of eligibility because of two injury-riddled seasons, Doughty earned Conference USA MVP honors after tossing 44 touchdowns and amassing 4,344 yards through the air. He did throw 10 interceptions, though a four-interception game against Louisiana Tech on Nov. 1 inflates that number a bit.As you can see in the accompanying graphic, Doughty's per-game passing average nearly matches the entire offensive output of the Chippewas per game.CMU knows what's coming. Doughty is the best offensive player on Western Kentucky, and the offense runs through him. Only twice through 12 games has he attempted 26 passes or less. In fact, he averages over 42 attempts per contest.That has clearly translated to success, as he has three games over 490 passing yards. Two of those games were for over 560. Oh, yeah, and he threw for an unfathomable eight touchdowns against Marshall.Unforgettable performances like that one led to major recognition. He was given the award dedicated to the best passer in the nation:Naturally, the Chippewas must be prepared. Head coach Dan Enos said that Doughty"is the best (quarterback) weve played all year," via Nate Schneider of The Morning Sun, so it's obvious that he's preaching containment strategies to his defense. The secondary will have to play top-notch coverage against Doughty's weapons.Even if it does, that's still no guarantee that it'll stop him. He has 19 touchdowns and two interceptions over his last four games, completing over 68 percent of his passes in the process.He'll definitely top the 400-yard mark against the No. 32 defense in the country, given how he's playing. Expect three touchdowns and another day in the 60s in terms of completion percentage. Even the weather in Nassau isn't hotter than Doughty right now.Devon Spalding Will Surprise for CMURunning back Thomas Rawls racked up over 1,100 yards and double-dight touchdowns on the ground for CMU this season, but CM Life reported on Monday that he won't be active on Wednesday:That puts the pressure on Devon Spalding, the freshman who actually led the team in yards per carry (amongst regular rushers) with 5.5.Not many people know of Spalding, but he's going to surprise against Western Kentucky. He received regular carries in just two games this season. He carried the ball 18 times for 154 yards and two scores against Eastern Michigan on Nov. 1, and he carried it 22 times for 147 yards and two scores the following game against Miami (Ohio).He has big-play potential, and that's something the Hilltoppers defense has to be ready for. Check out this 51-yard touchdown run from Nov. 15:The Hilltoppers cannot allow him to get into the second tier of the defense. He excels in open space, as you saw above. He can cut around defenders and make them miss. If the defensive line can contain him, it'll be difficult for him to get yardage.The graphic tells us that the Hilltoppers are extraordinarily bad against the run, however, so it appears as if Spalding is poised for another productive outing.He'll reach the 120-yard mark on 18 or so carries, and he'll probably find the end zone at least once. But all those predictions are of the safe variety. Don't be surprised if he blows them out of the water.PredictionWhile the Chippewas do play pretty good defense, there's no way this matchup doesn't end in a shootout. Doughty is too good to be held down by a MAC West defense, and Spalding has the chops to succeed against a porous run defense.CMU simply cannot match the scoring capabilities of Western Kentucky. The only way it can keep up is if Doughty has another four-pick game, but the chances of that are about as low as it snowing in Nassau on Wednesday.There's going to be plenty of excitement given the fact that this is the inaugural Bahamas Bowl, but don't expect the final result to be all that close.The Hilltoppers are too strong.Prediction: Western Kentucky 38, Central Michigan 21Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn
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