Western Michigan returns to a bowl game since losing 38-14 to Rice in the 2008 Texas Bowl. The Broncos won three out of their final four games to finish third in the MAC West and qualify for their fifth bowl appearance. Western Michigan are winless in their previous four bowls, but this year have one of the most exciting and talented wideouts in the country as a weapon.
Jordan White leads the nation in receptions (127), yards (1646), and yards per game (137.2) and is tied for second-most touchdowns in the FBS with 16. White has 3922 career receiving yards and is 110 yards shy of becoming the all-time MAC leader. QB Alex Carder will return after being sidelined in the Broncos’ 68-19 victory over Akron in their regular season finale with a separated shoulder. Despite missing the game, Carder is ranked 15th nationally with 3434 yards, 17th in completion percentage with 67.2%, and his 28 touchdowns are tied for 13th. The Broncos offense is heavily pass oriented, leading the conference with 328.8 yards per game; while averaging only 127.42 yards per game on the ground. They average 35.6 points per game is 18th in the FBS, and their total offense is 22nd with 456.3 yards per game.
Although Western Mich is ranked 12th-out-of-13th in the conference in total defense (434.1 ypg), DT Drew Nowak was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year after recording an FBS fifth-best 20 TFL and registering 77 total tackles. The Broncos have lost six straight to Big Ten opponents, including road losses this season at Michigan and Illinois. The last victory over a B1G school was November 2008 when Western Michigan defeated the Illini 23-17 at Ford Field.
The Boilermakers finished third in the Big Ten Leaders Division behind #9 Wisconsin and #24 Penn State and will look to cap off the year with their first winning season since 2007. After their last bowl game, a 51-48 victory over Central Michigan in the 2007 Motor City Bowl, Purdue has failed to win more than five games in a season.
Third year coach Danny Hope guided the Boilermakers to two upsets this season, a 21-14 victory over then-23rd Illinois in week eight and a 26-23 win against Ohio State on November 12th. RB Ralph Bolden leads all Purdue backs with 674 yards and six touchdowns and is likely to miss the Little Caesars Bowl after suffering a knee injury in the 33-25 road victory over in-state rival Indiana in the regular season finale. Freshman RB Akeem Hunt stepped in and finished with 100 yards on 10 carries against the Hoosiers and will get the nod if Boldin is unable to play. QBs Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve combined for 2361 yards, 15 TDs and 11 INTs this year, with TerBush adding 226 yards and a score on the ground.
Despite being ranked near the bottom of the conference in scoring (26.4), total defense (388.3) and passing defense (202.8 ypg); Kawann Short is considered one of the best interior lineman in the nation ranked 13th nationally with 17 TFL and tied for fourth in the Big Ten with 6.5 sacks.
Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc