Central Michigan returns to Detroit for its third consecutive appearance in the Motor City Bowl and fifth game at Ford Field in the last three seasons.
The Chippewas began the year as two-time defending MAC champions, and though they didn't earn a spot in the conference title game this year, they end the year in the bowl game that is usually reserved for the MAC champion.
Last year, CMU lost this game 51-48 to Purdue on a 40-yard field goal as time expired. Two years ago, the Chippewas downed the Sun Belt's Middle Tennessee 31-14.
The Motor City Bowl had to look outside of its arrangement with the Big 10 due to a shortage of eligible bowl teams, and went back to the Sun Belt to invite FAU.
FAU is playing in its second straight bowl game. The Owls won the Sun Belt a year ago, and captured the New Orleans Bowl trophy in their first bowl appearance. But FAU only finished fourth this season with a 4-3 conference mark. After some lofty preseason expectations, they needed victories in five of their last six games to barely become bowl eligible.
This will be FAU's third visit this season to Big Ten country, and second to the state of Michigan. The Owls visited Michigan State and Minnesota in back-to-back weeks in September, losing 17-0 and 37-3. All of FAU's victories came against teams that finished below .500, except for the win over a 6-6 Louisiana-Lafayette squad.
Central Michigan's signature win this year was a 37-34 victory at Indiana. The Chippewas also went 3-1 against the other MAC bowl teams with wins over Buffalo, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, and a loss to Ball State.
Last season, Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour joined former Texas QB Vince Young as the only two FBS quarterbacks to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. LeFevour accounted for 40 touchdowns over-all as he threw for 23 scores and ran for 17. He finished with 3,360 yards passing and 1,008 rushing. This year, he missed two games - Western Michigan and Indiana - but still managed to pass for 2,531 yards and 19 TD's with just 5 INT's, and rush for 536 yards and 6 TD's.
Central Michigan's defense, unfortunately, is nearly nonexistent. Last year, the Chippewas ranked 11th in the MAC in points allowed and 105th in the nation. They surrendered over 450 yards per game to rank last in the conference and 106th nationally. They improved to 8th in points allowed, but still finished last in yards allowed..
FAU's achilles heel has been turnovers. The Owls rank 102nd nationally in turnover margin at minus-9 (CMU is plus-4). Another issue, especially in the first half of the season, was dropped passes by an experienced corps of receivers.
Owl QB Rusty Smith threw 14 TD passes and just 3 INT's over the last four games to improve on some dismal numbers through the first eight games when he threw 8 TD passes and 11 INT's.
Both teams have adequate running games, but rank 66th (FAU) and 74th nationally. Central Michigan ran for 1,611 yards, led by LeFevour. Ontario Smith added 519 yards. The Owls rushed for 1,692 yards, paced by Charles Pierre's 932 yards and 8 TD's.
The last three Motor City Bowls have produced an average score of 40-31.
This year's game will be televised by ESPN at 7:30pm eastern as the only bowl game on December 26.