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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — The last few days for Western Kentucky and Central Michigan have seemed like vacation.
Such is life in the Bahamas.
Since arriving in the island nation, players have been swimming with dolphins, participating in clinics with Bahamian children to expose them to American football, checking out the posh resort where they're staying and taking tons of photos.
But the mood changes Wednesday, when Western Kentucky (7-5) and Central Michigan (7-5) square off in the Bahamas Bowl, the first bowl game outside of the U.S. or Canada since 1937.
"To be one of the inaugural teams to come in here and play the first game here (and) to show the local people what football really is, I think that's important," Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty said. "There's a lot of distractions in the Bahamas. We want to have fun with it, but we understand why we are here - to play a football game."
Plenty of eyes will be on Doughty, with good reason.
He leads the nation with 4,344 passing yards and 44 touchdowns, leading an offense that averaged 44 points per game in the regular season — sixth-best in the nation. The Hilltoppers were the nation's only team to reach the 66-point mark twice, one of those the 67-66 thriller that erased Marshall's hopes for a perfect season.
In Doughty's way will be a Central Michigan defense that held six of its 12 opponents this season to 17 points or less — and won all six of those game.
"Guys said they wanted to go south," Central Michigan coach Dan Enos said. "I don't think you can go any more south than this."
Here's what to know about the inaugural Bahamas Bowl:
BOWL REMATCH: The last bowl game either side played was against . each other. Central Michigan beat Western Kentucky 24-21 at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2012, though many of the principals and all of the touchdown-scorers from that game won't be involved in this one on Wednesday. That was the only previous meeting between the schools.
THEY CAN RUN, TOO: The Western Kentucky offense isn't entirely about Doughty, not by a long shot. RB Leon Allen had a breakout junior year, with 1,490 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Allen rushed 33 times for 345 yards against Army and 33 more times for 237 yards against Marshall — and both of those monster efforts came late in the season, when players tend to be wearing down. He's also caught 46 passes.
KEEP THE BALL: One of Central Michigan's strengths has been time of possession, and that could be a factor on Wednesday. The Chippewas won the time-of-possession battle nine times out of 12 games this season and went 7-2 in those contests. They lost each of the three games where they didn't have the ball as long as their opponents.
BIG WIN CAPABILITY: One of the top pre-New Year's bowl matchups was the Boca Raton Bowl, which pitted Marshall and Northern Illinois, teams with a combined three losses entering that game. They just happened to go 0-2 against Bahamas Bowl-bound opponents. Marshall lost to Western Kentucky and Northern Illinois got beaten — at home, where it had won 28 straight games — by Central Michigan 34-17 back in October.
THE LOCALE: The game will be played at Nassau's Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, a 15,000-seat facility that was a gift from China to the Bahamas. It was officially opened in 2012.
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