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Little Caesars Bowl preview: Western Michigan-Purdue

The Broncos battle the Boilermakers at Ford Field. Dave Miller

Print This December 27, 2011, 10:15 AM EST

The 2011-12 bowl season continues Tuesday with the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl between Western Michigan and Purdue at Detroit's Ford Field.

The last time Purdue was in the postseason was four years ago when the Boilermakers also played in Detroit against Central Michigan, a game won by the Big Ten squad 51-48. Will Western give Purdue a similar scare? Keep in mind that this bowl, while it may not draw a lot of attention, has delivered some exciting finishes the last four seasons.

Let’s take a look at this contest a little more closely…

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl preview: Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6) at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Alex CarderICONAlex Carder threw for a MAC-best 28 touchdowns this fall.

The Broncos, who are bowling for the third time in seven years under head coach Bill Cubit, have one of the more prolific offenses in the nation, averaging over 35 points per game. Led by junior quarterback Alex Carder, who averages 312.2 passing yards per game and threw for a MAC-best 28 touchdowns, Western Michigan will pose serious problems for Purdue's secondary. Carder's 3,434 passing yards rank third in school single-season history, and he passed for a school-record 548 yards against Toledo. His favorite target is receiver Jordan White, who led the nation in receptions (127) and yards (1,646) this season while scoring 16 touchdowns. With just 110 more yards against the Boilermakers, the sixth-year senior will become the MAC's all-time leading receiver.

However, Western Michigan gives up its share of points. And Purdue has scored 80 points over its final three games. Specifically, the Boilermakers will want to take advantage of a WMU rush defense that has allowed 216 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry this season. And Big Ten members Michigan and Illinois took advantage of Western's soft rush defense earlier this fall. While Purdue leading rusher Ralph Bolden suffered a torn ACL in the season finale against Indiana, Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt have flashed their ability at times, with Hunt averaging nearly 9 yards per carry in limited opportunities. Quarterback Caleb TerBush also is more effective as a runner than a passer.

Purdue, which extended head coach Danny Hope's contract by two years last Friday, could use some momentum heading into the offseason after failing to win back-to-back games all season and having four players either arrested or suspended since the end of the season. Western Michigan, meanwhile, is playing less than 150 miles from its Kalamazoo campus. The Broncos will have the home-field advantage, and they may be more focused as well.

Keep an eye on: Ricardo Allen. The Purdue sophomore cornerback is one of the best in the Big Ten, and he'll have the tough job of covering White. He's a strong cover corner who has three interceptions this season. While White may get his yards, Allen will need to be at his best to keep the star WMU receiver out of the end zone. Also, for those interested in watching two of the best defensive tackles in the nation, check out Purdue’s Kawann Short and Western Michigan's Drew Nowak. The 6-3, 305-pound Short has 6.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, while the 6-4, 292-pound Nowak has compiled ten sacks and 27 tackles for loss. Both will be playing on Sundays.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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