After 8 p.m. Sunday, Central Michigan Athletics Director Dave Heeke was getting “anxious” with his football team not yet in a bowl game.
“It was coming down to the wire,” he said. “But I knew we had a good shot with our team this year, our program history and how good our conference is.”
At 6-6, CMU squeezed into a bowl game and will play Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Dec. 26 at Ford Field in Detroit.
Western Kentucky finished the regular season 7-5 with an overtime win over Kentucky. The Hilltoppers lost three of their last four games in the Sun Belt Conference.
It will be the fourth trip for the Chippewas to the Motor City Bowl-Pizza Bowl since 2006.
“I’m excited, and I hope our fans are excited to go back to a bowl game in our backyard,” Heeke said. “It’s another step in the right direction for our program to rebuild.”
Northern Illinois will be the first team in the Mid-American Conference to play in a Bowl Championship Series bowl against Florida State in the Orange bowl. The Huskies will be without head coach Dave Doeren, who accepted the head coaching position at North Carolina State. CMU goes to NC State next year.
“Today was a landmark day for MAC football,” Heeke said. “We jumped that hurdle. It’s something we’re all striving to do; now its attainable. I hope to see us get that opportunity one day.”
Other notable bowl games include Michigan facing South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Years Day, and Michigan State plays Texas Christian University Dec. 29 in the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl.
Louisiana Tech is a bowl-eligible team not bowling. A 9-3 record wasn’t good enough in the Western Athletic Conference with non-conference wins over Illinois and Virginia. According to CBSsports.com, Louisiana Tech turned down an invitation to the Independence Bowl Saturday, thinking they could get a better game.
“I don’t know the details (of Louisiana Tech), a variety of things got reported,” Heeke said. “Northern Illinois was the big domino that fell that opened a lot of doors for us and a number of scenarios. Bottom line: I think the bowls like our team and our conference.”
The MAC will send seven teams to bowl games. Kent State, Ohio, Bowling Green, Ball State and Toledo were the others invited.