Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. Old Dominion Monarchs
Date: Dec. 23, 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium | Nassau, Bahamas
Best moment: Nothing has come easily for Eastern Michigan in a long, grueling rebuild, so it was fitting that the degree of difficulty in the bowl-clinching victory over Ball State was cranked up high. The Eagles rallied from 21 points down to win a 48-41 shootout on the road, with Brogan Roback throwing for 468 yards and three scores to punch a postseason ticket.
Lowest moment: There’s no shame in coming up short against a team that stormed through the regular season without a loss. But the Eagles might look back and wonder what could have been after standing toe to toe with Western Michigan and even taking a lead in the second quarter that opened up the possibility of a huge upset. The Broncos eventually pulled away to win comfortably, but that memory will surely stick with Eastern Michigan.
Key player: Everything flows through Roback for the Eagles, and the junior quarterback has done a steady job helping lead the program during the remarkable turnaround season. Roback has thrown for 2,394 yards while completing 59.2 percent of his attempts, spreading the ball around to a deep arsenal of targets that included 10 players with double-digit reception totals.
Motivation level: High. The Eagles haven’t been to a bowl game since 1987, so they will no doubt be looking to make a splash in their postseason return. A victory would also be the eighth of the year for Chris Creighton’s program -- a year after finishing with just one. – Austin Ward
Best moment: On Nov. 28, when the Monarchs accepted a bid to play in the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl against Eastern Michigan, the first bowl in the history of the program. From 2009-10, ODU was not eligible for the FCS playoffs, and from 2013-14, the Monarchs were not eligible for a bowl because of NCAA transitioning rules.
Lowest moment: In a showdown with major Conference USA East Division implications, the Monarchs were blown out at Western Kentucky 59-24. ODU trailed 52-14 at halftime in a game that proved to be the difference in which side would play for the Conference USA championship.
Key player: Quarterback David Washington leads a powerful Old Dominion offense and is one of four FBS quarterbacks to have thrown for 25 touchdown passes and four or fewer interceptions. He also threw for 2,648 yards while completing 60 percent of his passes.
Motivation level: The motivation should be tremendous for a program that has never been to a bowl. It will be paramount, however, for the Monarchs to manage their emotions in an exciting setting. – Jake Trotter