Middle Tennessee and Toledo open the college football bowl season at noon this Friday.
Can the underdog Blue Raiders slay Bahamas Bowl betting expectations and secure the program’s fifth-ever bowl win?
Betting odds position Middle Tennessee as underdog
Local Tennessee sports betting apps have Toledo (7-5, 5-3 Mid-American Conference) locked in as the clear favorite with a -point lead.
Toledo has seven wins against the spread this season, while Middle Tennessee (6-6, 4-4, C-USA) boasts five victories ATS.
Middle Tennessee fans can find lucrative moneyline odds of if the Blue Raiders manage a victory.
Toledo takers won’t find nearly as much return on investment, with odds of these betting favorites winning the Bahamas Bowl set at .
Sportsbooks position the game’s total at . The over has hit five times in Middle Tennessee games and six times during Toledo contests.
According to BetMGM Sportsbook, the spread moved from 9.5 points at the opening to 10.5 points on the morning of the game. The total dropped four points since opening to 49.5 points. The sportsbook reported that 88% of the spread handle is on Toledo.
How to watch: The Bahamas Bowl
- Who: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (6-6, 4-4, C-USA) at Toledo Rockets (7-5, 5-3 MAC)
- When: Noon, ET, Friday
- Where: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, The Bahamas
- TV: ESPN (Announcers: Kevin Negandhi, Booger McFarland, Katie George)
- Live stream: ESPN+
- Local radio: WGNS 1450 AM/100.5 FM/101.9 FM
- National radio: Bowl Season Radio (Kyle Wiggs, Elvis Gallego)
Middle Tennessee fights to the finish in regular-season finale
Three quarterbacks and one solid defensive team later, the Blue Raiders finally found their stride. After losing four of six games in the first half of the season, Middle Tennessee bounced back with a 6-6 record.
A resounding comeback win over Florida Atlantic punctuated that revival, securing the Blue Raiders’ first bowl eligibility ticket since 2018.
It became the team’s 100th win under head coach Rick Stockstill, who became just the third Raiders skipper to boast more than 100 victories. It’s also the 11th time in 16 years that a Stockstill team has become bowl eligible.
Running back Martell Pettaway leads the team with 359 rushing yards on 74 carries and three touchdowns. Jimmy Marshall’s 45 catches for 510 yards and six touchdowns top the team’s receiving efforts.
Middle Tennessee has played in 12 bowl games since 1956, logging four bowl wins in that span – two of which came under Stockstill. Their last bowl appearance in 2018 resulted in a loss against Appalachian State, though they beat Arkansas State the previous year.
This season, the Blue Raiders’ hungry defense led the nation with 31 forced turnovers. They’ll be hard-pressed for a turnover against their upcoming Toledo opponents though, whose offense took the crown with only six forfeited turnovers.
Toledo wins out to finish season, secure bowl berth
Toledo finished third in the MAC West after dropping three conference matchups and then claiming three end-of-season wins.
Heading into the team’s first-ever meeting with Middle Tennessee, quarterback Dequan Finn has 126 completions on 211 attempts with 1,855 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air. Finn has eight rushing touchdowns and 418 yards on the ground.
Running back Bryant Koback leads the team in rushing yards at 1,274 on 190 carries and 15 touchdowns. Receiver Devin Maddox has 38 receptions for 562 yards and four touchdowns.
The Rockets are 10-8 in NCAA-sanctioned bowls. Their most recent bowl victory came in 2015 against Temple, while their last appearance ended in a 2018 loss against Florida International at the Bahamas Bowl.
Bahamas Bowl: a fun history born in paradise
While this event may serve as the longest-running international bowl game in college football history, the Bahamas have not always been so football-centric.
The country first hosted a men’s basketball tournament in 2011 after securing legal approval from the NCAA and beyond. The event subsequently inspired creator and Complete Sports Management CEO Lea Miller to introduce a football bowl to the Bahamas.
The bowl debuted on Dec. 24, 2014, resulting in Western Kentucky sneaking by Central Michigan with a 49-48 win. The game marked the first time two U.S. teams played outside the country since the Bacardi Bowl in 1937.
The Bahamas Bowl took a hiatus in 2020 with the onset of COVID-19. Now, it’s back in full swing, kicking off the 2021 bowl game season.
Raiders fans can don their blue gear and tune into ESPN this Friday beginning at noon ET.