Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl - Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
College football serves up some Christmas leftovers, Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl style, tonight when Western Kentucky faces Central Michigan at Ford Field in Detroit.
After being left out of the bowl picture last season at 7-5, Western Kentucky will play in the program's first bowl game tonight, but without head coach Willie Taggart, who has departed for South Florida. Lance Guidry will step in Taggart's place as the interim head coach, a role he previously succeeded in at Miami (Ohio).
The Hilltoppers subscribe to a ground-and-pound philosophy, led by Sun Belt-leading rusher Antonio Andrews' 1,609 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. The junior has also nabbed 34 passes for 411 yards and three scores and ranks 14th nationally in punt returns and 16th in kickoff returns. Andrews picked up steam as the season closed, rushing 62 times for 468 yards (7.55 ypc) and three scores over the team's final two games.
Western Kentucky may be the only team in college football whose leading receiver employs a cowboy collar, as tight end Jack Doyle has hauled in a team-best 47 grabs for 530 yards and four touchdowns.
The Hilltoppers' defense holds up its end of the "pound" in ground-and-pound, ranking first or second in the Sun Belt in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss.
Central Michigan climbed out of a 3-6 hole to reach the first bowl game in year three of Dan Enos' tenure, ripping off a 34-31 win over Eastern Michigan, a 30-16 defeat of Miami (Ohio) and a 42-21 blowout of Massachusetts to set up a trip to Detroit. Central Michigan's season reached a high point with its 32-31 win at Iowa, but its six victories have come against teams that finished with 15 combined wins.
The Chippewas don't stand out on either side of the ball, but running back Zurlon Tipton ranks 15th nationally with 1,396 rushing yards and 19 scores. Tipton emerged from a mid-season lull ripping off 146 carries for 894 yards (6.12 ypc) and 13 touchdowns with six 100-yard games in the last half of the season.
In case you haven't seen it, here is Guidry's speech before the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl. Miami (Ohio) beat Middle Tennessee that night, 35-21. We hear he has something special up his sleeve for tonight's pre-game speech.