Most bowl selections won’t take place until after the conference championship games this Friday and Saturday, but Old Dominion got an early Christmas present: They found out almost a week early where they will be going and who their opponent will be as they will play against the Eastern Michigan
Bobby Wilder has been Old Dominion’s head coach since the school restarted its football program, with their first season being 2009. The Monarchs spent five years in the FCS (including two years in the Colonial Athletic Association) and never had a losing record. They finished with the best conference record in the CAA in 2012, but had already announced their intentions to join the FBS and C-USA, so the CAA decided not to award them the conference title.
Wilder’s Monarchs joined C-USA in 2014. They finished 6-6 but were ineligible for a bowl game because you can’t go to a bowl your first year in FBS. They finished 5-7 in 2015.
Then came this year. ODU was predicted by the media to finish 6th in C-USA East. Bobby Wilder was, shall we say, displeased by that prediction. So how does he respond? He leads the Monarchs to a 9-3 season, capped off by finishing tied for 1st in the East. Although WKU controls the tiebreaker and will be the East representative in the title game, that is still a remarkable season, and I’m just wondering how long it will take Old Dominion to find a way to name literally everything after him.
But for now, C-USA announced Monday where Old Dominion will be bowling. It was a bit unexpected, as other bowl games won’t be set until the final CFP committee rankings are released Sunday, but we at least know that the Old Dominion Monarchs will be playing in the 2016 Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl.
The Bahamas Bowl is currently the only bowl game outside the U.S., so the good thing about the early announcement is that it gives ODU fans a little more time to make plans and preparations. The game will be played on Friday, December 23, 2016 at 1 PM in Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau.
This will be the third edition of the Bahamas Bowl. The inaugural game in 2014 featured the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and the MAC’s Central Michigan Chippewas. Last year’s game featured another C-USA vs MAC showdown, as Middle Tennessee lost to Western Michigan, and P.J. Fleck rowed his boat back to the mainland with a trophy.
This year we will once again see C-USA represented by an east team and play the MAC’s Eastern Michigan which will complete the directional Michigan trifecta. The Monarchs and the Eagles are somewhat familiar with each other as they have played in the regular season the last two years. Old Dominion won both games, 17-3 in Norfolk in 2014 and 38-34 in Ypsilanti last year. However, the Eagles are much improved from the past two years. Then again, so is ODU. Besides this being ODU’s 1st ever bowl, it will be EMU’s first since the 1987 California Bowl, where the then EMU Hurons upset heavy favorite San Jose State, which was until now their only Division 1 bowl appearance.