Hawai'i Bowl: Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Hawai'i Bowl: Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Date: Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Location: Aloha Stadium | Honolulu, Hawai'i


Best moment: Quarterback Marcus Kemp threw a pair of touchdown passes to Dru Brown in consecutive overtime periods to lead the Rainbow Warriors past Air Force in Colorado Springs. The victory ended Air Force’s 15-game home winning streak and ended up being necessary for the Rainbow Warriors to secure bowl eligibility.

Lowest moment: For the most part, the Rainbow Warriors beat who they should have beaten and vice versa, but they would surely want another crack at UNLV. The Rebels went to Honolulu and beat Hawai'i on homecoming 41-38, which was far worse than the 63-3 thumping it received from Michigan.

Key player: Sophomore linebacker Jahlani Tavai led the team with 118 tackles, including seven sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. He was the team’s lone recipient of first-team All-Mountain West honors.

Motivation level: The Rainbow Warriors didn’t play well for most of the second half of the season and now they’re in a bowl game with a losing record. It’s understandable if they lack motivation after a long season in which they traveled approximately 47,000 miles -- roughly the same distance as two trips around the Earth. -- Kyle Bonagura

Middle Tennessee

Best moment: How about a road win over an SEC team? Middle Tennessee knocked off Missouri 51-45 in October thanks to a big day from its prolific triplets: QB Brent Stockstill put up 361 total yards and four TDs, RB I'Tavius Mathers rushed for 215 yards and WR Richie James contributed 129 receiving yards. “A phenomenal win for us,” coach Rick Stockstill said.

Lowest moment: After losing Brent Stockstill to a broken collarbone a week earlier, Middle Tennessee took a 42-17 loss on the road against a Marshall team that went 3-9. The Herd grabbed four takeaways and pitched a 28-0 second-half shutout after trailing at halftime in Middle Tennessee backup QB John Urzua’s first career start.

Key player: Mathers. The former Ole Miss transfer became only the seventh player in FBS history to produce 1,500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in one season. Whether or not the Blue Raiders get Stockstill back for the bowl, we’ll see plenty of Mathers in the senior’s final game.

Motivation level: Solid. With a powerful offense that averaged 40 points per game and broke all sorts of school records in offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s first season, Middle Tennessee promises to be a tough out and an even tougher one if Brent Stockstill gets healthy. -- Max Olson