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Little Caesers Bowl Preview: Western Michigan and Purdue Battle for Midwest Bragging Rights. Sort of

Alex Carder and the Broncos look for their first win against a team from the Big Ten this season.
Alex Carder and the Broncos look for their first win against a team from the Big Ten this season.

Little Caesars Bowl, December 27, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: Yet another attempt to revive Detroit's economy

The Sponsor: A "Pizza! Pizza!" chain that dropped its trademark marketing gimmick years ago

The Teams: Western Michigan and Purdue

How Western Michigan got here: With MACtion. Like most teams in the Tuesday and Wednesday night conference, the Broncos split their non-conference games with losses to the BCS squads on the docket (at Michigan and at Illinois) and wins against a Big East/midmajor team (at Connecticut) and an FCS member (Nicholls State). But Western Michigan went through the MAC pretty easily, with a 5-3 record that included losses to both of the teams that finished ahead of the Broncos in the West. The passing offense steered by Alex Carder was the top-ranked air attack in the MAC, though the 456.3 yards per game in total offense was only good for third in the points-crazy conference. But the defense, which allowed 434.1 yards a game on the season, was the worst in the league. At the same time, opponents averaged just 28 points a game against WMU, so "bend but not break" might be the cliche you want to use here.

How Purdue got here: If you're looking for a team to "blame" for Western Kentucky not getting into a bowl game, and you're going to overlook a woeful UCLA team with a losing record, then Purdue's about as solid a candidate as you can find. The teams the Boilermakers defeated: Middle Tennessee, Southeast Missouri State, Minnesota, an Illinois team embarking on an epic losing streak, an Ohio State team that defeated two other teams with winning records all year (in overtime), and Indiana. Only two of those wins -- against FCS team Southeast Missouri State and should-be FCS team Minnesota -- came by more than eight points. Only two of its losses were by fewer than 10 points -- and one of those was at Rice by two. So am I saying that Purdue is the Kentucky of the Big Ten? Yes, I am.

College football fans care because: It's Purdue in a bowl game, and we haven't gotten to see that in a while. Besides, MACtion!

SEC fans care because: It's a chance to laugh at how the Big Ten plays football.

Watch this game if...: You enjoy wearing a toga.

The result: Western Michigan 34, Purdue 30