By RENALDO DORSETT
JUST three weeks remain in the NCAA FBS Division I football season and the final few games on the calendar will go a long way in determining which teams will compete in the second edition of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
The December 24 matchup at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium will feature teams from Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference.
The Toledo Rockets currently head the MAC with an undefeated 6-0 record and are nationally ranked at No.19 in the Associated Press top 25 poll. They are followed in the West by Western Michigan at 3-3 but 2-0 thus far in conference play, followed by Northern Illinois at 4-3 and Central Michigan at 3-4.
In the East division of the MAC, Bowling Green leads at 5-2, identical overall records with Ohio, but Bowling Green holds the tiebreaker with a 3-0 conference record.
The 2014 Bahamas Bowl champion, Western Kentucky leads C-USA and the East division at 6-1 (4-0 in conference play) tied with Marshall (3-0 in conference play).
The West division is led by Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss, both 4-3 (2-1 in C-USA), followed by Rice at 3-3.
The MAC has six league games this weekend highlighted by East leader Bowling Green on the road in a key division game at Kent State.
In C-USA, the Louisiana Tech will face a late surging Middle Tennessee State.
The highest-ranked conference champion by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee from the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West or Sun Belt will play annually in one of the College Football Playoff bowls (VIZIO Fiesta and Chick-fil-A Peach bowls for the 2015 season) if it is not selected for the Playoff Semi-finals.
C-USA has 2015 tie-ins with the Popeyes Bahamas, Arizona, Gildan New Mexico, Miami Beach, R&L Carriers New Orleans, St Petersburg and Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas bowls, with a secondary tie-in with the Camping World Independence Bowl (if either the ACC or the SEC does not have enough eligible teams).
There is no set selection order among C-USA’s bowl partners.
The GoDaddy Bowl has first choice of a MAC bowl-eligible team, and the remainder of the selections will follow, with no set selection order among the MAC’s bowl partners. The MAC has 2015 tie-ins with Popeyes Bahamas, Famous Idaho Potato, GoDaddy, Marmot Boca Raton and Raycom Media Camellia bowls, with secondary tie-ins with the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (if Army is not bowl eligible), various ESPN owned-and-operated bowls and the Quick Lane Bowl (if either ACC or Big Ten does not have enough eligible teams).
The 2015 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl participants will be announced Sunday, December 6.
The 2014 game featured Western Kentucky of Conference USA against Central Michigan of the MAC in the first FBS-level bowl game outside of the United States or Canada since 1937. The Hilltoppers held on for a 49-48 victory over the Chippewas in one of the most memorable bowl games of the 2014 season.
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games, 13 college bowl games, 10 college basketball events and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 250-plus hours of programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and attracts over 700,000 attendees each year.
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen has extended its title sponsorship in a multi-year deal with the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
The game reached nearly 12 million viewers in the United States and saw over 13,000 attendees locally. There was a strong social media presence with nearly 56 thousand posts, 141 million impressions and 1,587 articles.