A team in flux and awaiting the arrival of former Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino, the Hilltoppers finished 7-5 during the regular season, but struggled down the stretch in Sun Belt Conference play, losing three of their last four conference games by close margins.
The Chippewas never really got their feet under them in 2012– which included a miserable stretch in October– but finished with a three-game winning streak to end the season and earn bowl eligibility with a 6-6 record after a final day 42-21 win over the hapless Massachusetts Minutemen on November 23rd.
On paper, this matchup promises to be a battle of pacing, and which team can best establish the run early on. Both teams have 1,300+ yard rushers on the season who can change the face of a game if they can get momentum.
Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews carried the ball 277 times for 1,609 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season, en route to becoming a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, honoring the nation’s most versatile player. Andrews also hauled in 411 yards receiving and three touchdowns during the regular season, making him a tough-to-handle dual threat out of the backfield.
Central Michigan’s Zurlon Tipton carried the ball 229 times for 1,391 yards and 19 touchdowns over the Chippewas’ first 12 games (including a long run of 72 yards for a score), and churned out an impressive 6.1 yards per carry. Tipton finished 16th in the country in yards per game (115.92) and has the ability to grind yardage out with consistency if he gets going early.
While this may not be the most high-profile of bowl games in the upcoming days, if you’re looking for a reason to tune in to the Pizza Bowl on Wednesday evening, a good old-fashioned running back battle between Andrews and Tipton is certainly reason enough.