Football Bowl Subdivision
      === Hilltoppers and Chippewas meet in Little Caesars Pizza Bowl ===
 Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - Just two weeks after hiring Bobby Petrino as
 head coach, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will take part in the Little
 Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit against the Central Michigan
 On Dec. 10 it was announced that Petrino, the former Arkansas head coach,
 would be taking over for Western Kentucky following this season. Petrino is
 75-26 all-time as a head coach but was fired from Arkansas last summer after a
 scandal involving an Arkansas staff member. However in this game it will be
 defensive coordinator Lance Guidry who will serve as interim head coach for
 the departing Willie Taggart.
 Under Taggart, Western Kentucky posted a record of 7-5, which gave the
 Hilltoppers their second straight seven-win season after the team managed only
 four total wins in the previous three years. The Hilltoppers stumbled down the
 stretch to get there with losses in three straight before a 25-24 win over
 North Texas in the regular-season finale. Even more importantly, Western
 Kentucky is playing in its first bowl game ever since moving to the FBS level
 in 2007.
 "We're just excited," Western Kentucky tight end Jack Doyle said. "You can
 feel the energy around here about going to this program's first bowl game as a
 Division I member. It's just an exciting time and (we're) excited to get it
 As for Central Michigan, the Chippewas needed to wait until the final game of
 the season to earn their bowl bid. The Chippewas were just 3-6 with three
 games remaining but managed to pull out three straight wins, two coming on the
 road, to earn the six victories necessary for bowl eligibility. With the win
 at UMass to end the regular season, the Chippewas earned their first bowl bid
 since 2009 and seventh overall. This is also the fifth bowl game in the last
 seven seasons for Central Michigan. In those previous contests the Chippewas
 have a 2-4 record with the most recent decision a 44-41 win over Troy in the
 GMAC Bowl, which is now the Bowl.
 This will not just be the first bowl game for Western Kentucky but also the
 first time the Hilltoppers have ever squared off with Central Michigan on the
 Despite being a mediocre offensive team this season, Western Kentucky did have
 one of the best offensive weapons in the country in running back Antonio
 Andrews. The All-Sun Belt First Team member had a spectacular season both on
 the ground and through the air. Andrews finished the regular season with 2,977
 all-purpose yards which is the third best single-season mark in Division I
 history and only 273 yards behind the all-time mark set by Barry Sanders in
 1988. The all-purpose yards mark also broke the Sun Belt Conference's record
 by more than 300 yards. Andrews got the bulk of his work done on the ground
 (1,609 yards, 11 touchdowns) but also hauled in 34 passes for 411 yards and
 three scores.
 "We looked at it. We have another good ball club. They have some good
 linebackers, d-line, safeties and I know they have a good d-coordinator. So
 we're going to have to come out here and do what we do," Andrews said of
 Central Michigan while asserting how ready he is to play. "(The) week off I
 was able to catch my legs. I feel refreshed and ready to go. I feel like it's
 week one."
 Even with Andrews the Hilltoppers still ranked near the middle of the Sun Belt
 in scoring (28.8 ppg, fifth) and total offense (392.3 ypg, sixth).
 Kawaun Jakes is the man under center. Jakes was efficient this season,
 completing 64.6 percent of his passes, while throwing for 21 touchdowns and 11
 Doyle (47 receptions, 530 yards, 4 TDs) and Willie McNeal (40 receptions, 506
 yards, 6 TDs) are the top pass catching threats for Western Kentucky, and
 along with Andrews the only players with more than 13 receptions this year.
 Western Kentucky had much more star power on defense and was markedly better
 on that side of the ball in 2012. The Hilltoppers were the best team in their
 conference in terms of total yards allowed (342.8 ypg), while ranking second
 in scoring defense (25.6 ppg). The key was how well Western Kentucky got
 upfield and made plays, leading the Sun Belt in tackles for loss (90) and
 sacks (31).
 One of three First-Team All-Sun Belt selections on the unit, Andrew Jackson
 (116 tackles, 15.7 TFLs) is definitely the leader, after totaling the second
 most tackles, and the most solo stops (78) in the conference. Jackson's
 leadership role is even more pronounced with the loss of Sun Belt Defensive
 Player of the Year Quanterus Smith. Smith suffered a knee injury at the end of
 November, which ended his campaign. Safety Jonathan Dowling (60 tackles, six
 INTs) also earned all-conference honors.
 Like Western Kentucky, Central Michigan wasn't anything special when it came
 to overall offensive numbers. The Hilltoppers ranked seventh in the Mid-
 American Conference in total yards (394.1 ypg) and tied for sixth in scoring
 offense (29.3 ppg). Central Michigan did excel when it managed to get drives
 into the red zone, converting on a MAC-leading 88.89 percent of its attempts.
 Ryan Radcliff is the signal caller for the Chippewas. Radcliff didn't complete
 an extremely high percentage of his pass attempts (59.0), but did throw for
 2,905 yards and 20 touchdowns with only nine interceptions. Radcliff threw for
 the fifth most yards per game in the MAC (242.1) and was the fourth highest
 rated passer (136.3).
 In the running game, Zurlon Tipton has been the workhorse for the Chippewas.
 Tipton has piled up 1,391 yards on 229 carries. No other player on the team
 has more than 53 carries for 235 yards. Tipton was one of six players in the
 MAC to average more than 100 rushing yards per game and tied with Northern
 Illinois' quarterback Jordan Lynch for the most rushing touchdowns (19) in the
 conference. Tipton was an obvious selection for the First-Team All-MAC team. A
 Detroit native, Tipton is obviously excited to come back and play in his home
 "I am excited to be able to come back to my hometown to play in this game,"
 Tipton said. "It is going to be fun to play in front of so many of our fans
 and I expect it is going to be a great game."
 Another offensive player to watch for on an individual level is wide receiver
 Titus Davis (43 receptions, 806 yards, 8 TDs). For his efforts in 2012 Davis
 earned First-Team All-MAC honors. While his numbers are not eye-popping, Cody
 Wilson (64 receptions, 739 yards, 2 TDs), turned in a strong season as well,
 picking up Second-Team All-MAC honors for the second straight year, while
 ranking 10th in the conference in receptions.
 CMU was bolstered by an offensive line headlined by Third-Team All-American
 Eric Fisher at tackle. Fisher was also tabbed a First-Team All-MAC selection.
 On defense Central Michigan was rather pedestrian in comparison to the rest of
 the conference. The Chippewas were the seventh best team in the MAC in yards
 allowed (441.2 ypg) and ninth in scoring defense (33.3 ppg). While the offense
 constantly found success in the red zone the defense was almost always giving
 up scores, with the 11th best opponent conversion rate (86.8 percent) in the
 conference. Central Michigan also failed to get much in terms of negative
 plays with the fewest tackles for loss (47.0) in the MAC.
 Senior safety Jahleel Addae (81 tackles, 7.0 TFLs, 4 INTs) was the lone
 defender to earn All-MAC honors as he was named to the First Team. Justin
 Cherocci (124 tackles) and Shamari Benton (117 tackles) each had large
 tackle totals but managed only four tackles for loss combined. Caesar
 Rodriguez (four sacks) was the best pass rusher on a team that failed to get
 consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
 12/26 09:11:14 ET