Old Dominion

2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, Old Dominion vs. EMU Prediction, Game Preview, History, Scores

Popeyes Bahama Bowl Prediction, Old Dominion vs. Eastern Michigan Game Preview, History, Scores


Three reasons why you should watch the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl between Old Dominion (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5), why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.


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Date: Friday, December 23
Game Time: 1:00 pm
Venue: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
Network: ESPN

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Scroll down for the video preview and bowl history

The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness (1 best-40 worst): 36 out of 40

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Popeyes Bahama Bowl

Popeyes … good. Bahamas … good. Popeyes Bahamas Bowl? Allllll gooood. The first two Popeyes Bahamas Bowls have been phenomenal. Western Michigan beat Middle Tennessee in a wild shootout last year, and WKU and Central Michigan came up with an epic 49-48 thriller in the inaugural game in 2014. Considering this is Old Dominion’s first bowl, and Eastern Michigan’s second – and first since winning your 1987 California Bowl over San Jose State – both teams are going to care.

Eastern Michigan brings an offense. Two years ago, EMU was 121st in the nation in total offense, averaging 290 yards per game. Last year there was an improvement, but this year the points and yards are actually coming, especially through the air. The Eagles are winging it around the yard, averaging 296 yards per game – they’re not boring.

Putting the O in Old Dominion. The Monarchs – also, not boring. With a balanced attack that finished the season on fire, they rolled up 135 points over the last three games and come into Nassau on a five-game winning streak. The only blip over the last nine games came to eventual C-USA champ Western Kentucky – no shame there.

Here’s Why Eastern Michigan Will Win The Popeyes Bahama Bowl

The offense keeps things moving. The Eagles find ways to keep moving the chains, doing a decent job of going on long enough marches to keep drives alive. And best of all, when they have their shot at scoring, they don’t whiff. Good at third downs and great in the red zone, they’ll capitalize on every opportunity. ODU breaks when it bends – it always gets scored on inside the 20.

Pat O’Connor and the defensive front have made a huge difference. Stuck on miserable teams over his first three seasons, O’Connor has gone unseen by everyone but MAC coaches. Finally, the 6-4, 270-pounder gets to have some fun, cranking up eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss that’s been good enough against most running games. Not to dog with faint praise, but for EMU, this D has been terrific.

The field should be tilted. Austin Barnes leads one of the nation’s top punting games, averaging 43.7 yards per try for a team that nets over 40 yards per kick. Old Dominion? Not so much. The Monarchs have one of the nation’s worst overall punting games averaging just 33.6 yards per kick.

Here’s Why Old Dominion Will Win The Popeyes Bahama Bowl

The Old Dominion offense has been brutally effective. Balanced, explosive, and with a whole slew of weapons, ODU has been able to turn the lights out on teams by scoring in waves. Once Conference USA play hit, the team was just below the Louisiana Tech/Western Kentucky offensive juggernauts when it came to the scoring punch, coming up with 31 points or more in every game – and all nine wins – but the loss to WKU.

They don’t screw up. The Monarchs don’t commit penalties, and they own the turnover margin. It wasn’t an issue last year, but it wasn’t a strength, finishing the season with a -1 margin. This year, they’ve turned the ball over just nine times, and three of them came in the regular season finale win over FIU. That was the only game all year they didn’t win the turnover battle, finishing a +13 on the season.

The Eastern Michigan defense might be better than before, but it can be thrown on. Western Michigan and Ball State fired at will, and Ohio – who doesn’t really throw on anyone – put up close to 300 yards. That was just over the second half of the season. As good as the EMU line has been, it’s not a dominant backfield presence and doesn’t generate enough pressure. Again, Old Dominion doesn’t make a slew of big mistakes, and that includes an ultra-efficient passing game that should be terrific.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Popeyes Bahama Bowl

Old Dominion might have the best Group of Five skill trio you haven’t seen. Do-it-all QB David Washington has been fantastic, throwing 28 touchdowns and just four picks, while running a little bit, too. He’s the veteran catalyst, but he’s got help from Ray Lawry, who hit the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last two seasons, and almost got there in 2014. He’s averaging over six yards per pop, with 1,122 yards and 11 touchdowns for the running game, while Zach Pascal turned in an all-star season with a team-high 63 catches with eight scores. Throw in Jonathan Duhart and Travis Fulgham – combining for 15 touchdowns – and the Monarchs have the offensive pop.

Again, and this can’t be stressed enough, these teams are jacked. Because of the logistics of getting everything set up in the Bahamas, these two knew their bowl fates early. For two programs not used to being in a bowl game, this is fun. This isn’t going to be just another bowl game in the bucket to these two, and that should resonate on the field in a solid game.

Both teams are for real. Yeah, Eastern Michigan stumbled over the second half of the season, but they stepped up and won this year against Wyoming, beat Ohio, and gave Western Michigan a push. The depth isn’t tremendous, but this is a veteran team built for this year.

Old Dominion lost to Appalachian State, NC State, and WKU on the road – no real shame there. Granted, the two wins over bowl teams came against UTSA and Southern Miss, but the Monarchs have been air-tight for most of the season. This might be the stepping-stone moment for the program.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl?

The Old Dominion offense will be too good.

Eastern Michigan will wing the ball all around the yard, and they’ll keep pace, but ODU will end up with a few key takeaways to tip the balance a bit. Expect a lot of points, a high-octane shootout, and lots of fun. It should be one of the more entertaining early bowls, mainly because everyone will care.

Final Score

Old Dominion 41, Eastern Michigan 30

Line

Old Dominion -3.5, o/u: 64

ATS Confidence: 3
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0: Your New Year’s Eve chances to score after covering a College Football Playoff semifinal

Must See Rating: 3
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Get Tickets For The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Bahamas Bowl History, Results

Dec. 24, 2015 Western Michigan 45 Middle Tennessee 31
Dec. 24, 2014 Western Kentucky 49 Central Michigan 48