It’s a battle for Western supremacy, as Western Michigan (7-5, 5-3 MAC) and Western Kentucky (8-4, 6-2 Conference USA) meet up in the old Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, to face off in the second annual First Responder Bowl.
The two Westerns are former rivals, as Broncos faced the Hilltoppers nine times as an independent program, and lead the series 11-3-1 all-time. The last game between these teams was back in 1947, a game won by the Broncos by a final of 38-0. The Broncos joined the newly-formed Mid-American Conference in the next season after the MAC lost a handful of charter programs.
The Broncos (once called the Hilltoppers prior to 1939) look to make it four-straight in the long-dormant series when they take on Western Kentucky in this bowl game matchup.
It’s been a fantastic season for first-year head coach Tyson Helton, who’s led the Hilltoppers to an eight-win campaign in 2019, a season removed from 3-9 in 2018. The former offensive coordinator at Tennessee, Helton (brother of USC head coach Clay) made his mark quickly, picking up a 45-19 win vs. Arkansas, and coming within a gme of the CUSA title game.
Tim Lester enters a pivotal third season at Western, with the last of the players from the 2016 Cotton Bowl appearance graduating after this game, including all-MAC first-teamer LeVante Bellamy, who is near the top of the chart in rushing touchdowns (23.) The Broncos limped to a 7-5 finish with an upset loss to NIU in conference play, which took them out of MAC title game contention, but they’ll look to right the ship with a win vs. WKU in a familiar place.
Here’s all the media information you’ll need to watch, listen, or stream today’s action:
Television and streaming
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, with television coverage starting at approximately 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. Dave Neal (play-by-play), DJ Shockley (color) and Dawn Davenport (sideline) will provide the call for the game.
There are several ways to be able to watch the First Responder Bowl, including:
- Cable/satellite: ESPN is available on most television packages. Check your local listings or with your provider for more information.
- ESPN App: The game is available for streaming on the ESPN App, which is available for download on both the Google Play and Apple stores. A valid cable or satellite subscription is required for viewing. The ESPN Deportes feed is also available on the app.
- YouTube TV: YouTube TV has ESPN available in its default package. The service runs at $49.99/month, but new customers can get a free one-week trial.
- Sling TV: Sling offers ESPN channels as part of their Sling Orange package, offered for $25/month. If you purchase a subscription now, you can get the first month of service for 40 percent off.
- Hulu: Hulu offers a live TV package, featuring ESPN’s family of channels, which currently runs at $54.99/month. They’re currently offering a seven-day free trial, which can be redeemed on the site.
- AT&T Now: AT&T Now offers a streaming package featuring the ESPN family of channels for $65/month. More details can be found here.
The game will be available for a listening audience via each program’s affiliated radio stations. There will be no national radio broadcast.
- Western Michigan-centric broadcast: The WMU radio call can be found on WKZO 106.9 FM/560 AM, the Broncos’ flagship station. Robin Hook (play-by-play) and John Creek (color) will be on the call. An online stream can be found here, while a list of terrestrial stations can be found here.
- Western Kentucky-centric broadcast: The WKU radio call can be found on ESPN 102.7 Bowling Green, Hilltoppers’ flagship station. Randy Lee (play-by-play) and Leo Peckenpaugh (color) will be on the call. The online stream can be found here, while a list of terrestrial stations can be found here.
- Where/when: Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas, on Monday, December 30, at 12:30 EST (11:30 local.)
- Weather: 53 degrees and sunny, with winds at 10 MPH and 33 percent humidity, per Weather.com.
- Last meeting: Western Michigan 38, Western Kentucky 30 (1947)
- Last WMU bowl game appearance: 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (L 18-49, BYU)
- Last WMU bowl game win: 2015 Bahamas Bowl (45-31, Middle Tennessee)
- Last WKU bowl game appearance: 2017 Cure Bowl (L, 17-27, Georgia State)
- Last WKU bowl game win: 2016 Boca Raton Bowl (51-31, Memphis)
- Betting odds: WKU is a 3.5-point favorite, with the over/under at 53, per OddsShark.com.