35 Bowls in 24 Days: Little Caesars Bowl

We’ve made it to the post-Christmas bowls in my 35 Bowls in 24 Days special, which means the number of bowls I preview each day will be ramping up. Today, I have one bowl for you — the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit, Michigan. It’s just days away, so be sure to read this before you make your bets!

More: See the other bowl games

Western Michigan Broncos (7-5, 5-3 MAC) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten), Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, 4:30 p.m. [ESPN]

My father taught me one thing about making bowl picks: if you’re ever in doubt, and a MAC team is involved in the game, pick them. Don’t think twice, just roll with the MAC.

So far this bowl season, the MAC is 2-0 in bowl games, and if you’ve enjoyed the MACtion that took place in the regular season (every MAC game that was televised was unreasonably thrilling, it seemed), you know that this conference is capable of beating the scraps of the bigger conferences.

Here we see a Western Michigan team that finished third in their division of the MAC, but wasn’t afraid to score a few points along the way. They lost to Toledo 66-63 (that game didn’t go to overtime — they scored that many points in 60 minutes) and beat Akron 68-19 in the final week of the regular season. The Broncos’ 35.6 points per game ranks 18th in the nation, and they will look to keep the points flowing in their home state at the Little Caesars Bowl.

Their passing game ranks No. 8 in the country at 328.8 yards per game. It’s what they do well, and it’s the reason why they can score 68 points in regulation. Purdue will have their hands full with that offense.

The Boilermakers are making their first bowl appearance since 2007’s Motor City Bowl (also at Ford Field), when they beat Central Michigan 51-48. A 6-6 season isn’t anything to smile about, but it’s better than where they’ve been the last few years.

With wins over Illinois and Ohio State, Purdue has been a formidable opponent in 2011. They allow more points than they score and they don’t rank anywhere near the top in many stats, so on paper, you’d think they were ripe for a loss to W. Michigan.

But Purdue finished their regular season quite strong, winning two of their final three games to get bowl-eligible after consecutive blowouts at the hands of Michigan and Wisconsin. They’re not going to win the Big Ten any time soon, but their third-place finish in the Leaders Division was a step in the right direction.

Here’s why Purdue won’t win the Little Caesars Bowl: there are a lot of distractions surrounding them all of a sudden. Running back Ralph Bolden led the team with 674 rushing yards during the regular season, but a knee injury in the final game of the season will likely sideline him for the bowl game. Receiver O.J. Ross (33 catches, 356 yards, three touchdowns) is suspended indefinitely, so it’s not certain that he will play, either.

Purdue isn’t a special football team, so they need all hands on deck to beat a high-scoring team like Western Michigan. Thus, I’m calling for the upset. MACtion, baby.

My prediction: W. Michigan 45, Purdue 40

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