Now that both Old Dominion University and Eastern Michigan have accepted their bowl invitations, coaching staffs on both sides have began fine tuning their game plans ahead of the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, which is expected to be the biggest to date.

Unlike the past two games that were staged on Christmas Eve, this year’s game kicks of at 1 p.m. on December 23.

“It’s an honor to have this game in The Bahamas once again,” said Executive Director of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl Richard Giannini. “We’re thankful to our title sponsor and everyone here on the ground that helps make this event special.”

For the second year in a row, the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl will be held under the ESPN Events banner. According to Sports Media Watch, the 2015 Christmas Eve matchup, which saw the Western Michigan Broncos top the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, drew in 2.1 million viewers on ESPN.

“It’s amazing that ESPN came in and took over, buying the game,” said bowl founder Lea Miller. “This shows the commitment they have to the country. The bowl comes after the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament and the Atlantis Showcase. It is really a month of straight exposure for the country. No other country in the Caribbean can touch this. All of this is really something that The Bahamas should be proud of.”

Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said, that he and his team are thrilled to be able to make school history in The Bahamas by playing in their first bowl game.

“For the last 29 years, Eastern Michigan has been turning in equipment this time of year,” he said. “When I say we are grateful, I mean we are grateful for every experience and opportunity that we will have here. “At the beginning of the year, our seniors came up with the goal that they were going to a bowl game. So over the past nine months, you had guys that are 22-23 years old, leading over 100 guys between ages 18-21. And I am so proud of what they have done over that nine month period.”

The Monarchs (9-3 overall, 7-1 in Conference USA play) will be led to their first-ever bowl appearance by head coach Bobby Wilder, who is in his eighth season (66-30 record overall) at the school, and the school’s only head coach since restarting the program in 2009.

“Everyone involved in organizing the game has been incredible. Just an incredible group of people,” said ODU coach Bobby Wilder. “We realize how important this is and this experience will be like living a dream. This game is great for both schools and the Popeyes Bowl continues to just get better and better.” 

The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl signed a multi-year extension of the title sponsorship for the game last summer. Last year’s game featured Western Michigan and Middle Tennessee in the only Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) bowl game outside of the United States. Western Michigan managed to edge Middle Tennessee 45-31 for the Broncos first ever bowl victory.

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