It’s the time of year when various talk shows whine about how there are too many bowl games. Convenient, of course, for the elite – and those who fancy their teams as such.
This year’s Popeyes Bahamas Bowl match-up, however, really illustrates how bowls can serve as a much appreciated reward for the … well, not so elite.
Eastern Michigan of the MAC will meet Old Dominion, a Conference USA member in Friday’s 1 p.m. ET game at Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas. The matchup brings together two teams who can really appreciate a bowl appearance. Eastern Michigan is appearing in its first bowl game since 1987. Old Dominion, meanwhile, is making its first bowl appearance.
For EMU, it puts . . .
As for Old Dominion, the Monarchs didn’t even have a football team when EMU last participated in a bowl game. In fact, the ODU program started in 2009 and only moved to the FBS level upon entry in the Conference USA (2014). It did have two very successful seasons at the FCS level prior to that.
Here is more on the two teams:
OLD DOMINION MONARCHS (9-3, 7-1 C-USA)
► The Monarchs and Western Kentucky finished atop the Conference USA East Division with 7-1 records. Old Dominion’s only conference loss was to WMU, 59-24, back on Oct. 22.
► Old Dominion won its last five games and eight of its last nine.
► The Monarchs have a potent offense, which is spearheaded by the top-rushing attack in Conference-USA.
► Junior running back Ray Lawry has 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year, although he missed one game. He has eclipsed 100 yards in four of the last five games and racked up 194 yards on 24 carries with three TDs in his last outing (against Florida International).
► Sophomore Jeremy Cox leads the team with 13 touchdowns and also contributed 685 yards on the campaign.
► Senior QB David has completed 191 of 320 attempts (59.7%), good for 2,648 yards and 24 TDs with just four interceptions. He was sacked 14 times over the 12 games.
► Senior Zach Pascal and junior Jonathan Duhart have combined for 108 receptions, 1,583 yards and 16 touchdowns.
► Old Dominion registered 17 rushing touchdowns and 28 scores through the air.
► Running plays accounted for 56.5 percent of Monarch plays from scrimmage.
► Old Dominion averages 36.0 ppg and allows 27.8 ppg.
► ODU’s defense has registered 34 sacks.
► Aaron Young leads the team with three interceptions – one for a TD. The defense has 10 total interceptions.
► Senior T.J Ricks (93) and Anthony Wilson (90) lead Old Dominion in tackles. Oshane Ximines has a team-high 11.5 tfl and 7.5 sacks.
► Kicker Brad Davis has connected on 9 of 11 field goals with a long of 43.
► Old Dominion is considered the 17th most experienced team in the country, but it still is tied for the fourth fewest seniors in the country with 13.
► ODU is fourth in FBS in turnover margin. ODU has turned the ball over nine times this season, and has taken it away 23 times. The Monarchs (+13) have only lost the turnover battle once this season, the finale against FIU.
► The Eagles won four of their first five games in 2016. They lost three of their last five contests, including a 31-24 overtime loss at home to Northern Illinois Nov. 16.
► EMU’s last two wins were dramatic victories. The Eagles knocked off Ball State, 48-41 in Muncie (Nov. 8) and edged Central Michigan, 26-21, in the finale when Sergio Bailey II scored on a 24-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left.
► Junior quarterback Brogan Roback has completed 193 of 326 passes (59.2%) for 2,394 yards with 16 TDs and 6 picks. He missed the first three games. Roback threw for over 300 yards in five of his last six games. His top production was against Ball State: 37 of 71 for 468 yards and three TDs.
► R-So. Ian Erickson tops Eagle Rushers with 741 yards on 175 attempts with nine TDs. His top game was 171 yards on 30 carries against Northern Illinois. He did not see action in the final against CMU.
► Junior wideout Sergio Bailey II tops Eastern receivers with 55 receptions, good for 799 yards and six scores. Antoine Porter and Nigel Kilby have combined for 78 catches, 928 yards and eight TDs.
► Freshman kicker Paul Fricano converted 40 of 41 PATs and 17 of 22 field goals with a long of 46.
► Sophomore LB Kyle Rachwal posted a team-best 101 tackles. Junior defensive back Jason Beck was next with 98 stops. Senior Pat O’Connor, who leads the team with 8.0 sacks, is getting some pro scout attention.