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Toledo will play Middle Tennessee in the 2021 Bahamas Bowl

The Rockets kick off the 2021 bowl season as they return to the Bahamas for the second time in four years.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Williams popularized the song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” a tune which inhabits radio stations and retail store loudspeakers in late November and December every year. While the song refers to the joy surrounding the Christmas and holiday season, there is one other reason why that song is fitting at the moment. The first bowl matchup has been announced.

Bowl season officially kicks off December 17 in Nassau, Bahamas with the Bahamas Bowl. Ushering in the 2021 postseason on international soil will be the Toledo Rockets and Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. The matchup, typically the first to be revealed on an annual basis, was first reported by The Action Network’s breaking news reporter Brett McMurphy.

Dec. 17 marks the seventh annual Bahamas Bowl, which became a staple in the bowl rotation in 2014. Several bowls were axed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and due to complications involving international travel, the Bahamas Bowl was canceled. However, the lone bowl outside of the United States makes a triumphant return in 2021.

This will be Toledo’s second appearance in the Bahamas Bowl. The Rockets’ fell 35-32 to FIU in the 2018 iteration of the event — the program’s most recent bowl appearance. Middle Tennessee took the trek to Nassau in 2015 but couldn’t claim the trophy, as Western Michigan prevailed in 45-31 fashion. Whichever team emerges victorious that Friday will win its first-ever Bahamas Bowl.

Toledo (7-5, 5-3 MAC) completed its 12th consecutive non-losing season this year. The Rockets qualified for bowl eligibility the entire 2010s decade, and they’ll be searching for their first bowl victory since 2015 when they defeated Temple in the Boca Raton Bowl — Jason Candle’s first game as Toledo’s coach. Candle’s squad finished strong this season, winning its final three games with an opportunity at a fourth consecutive win in the Bahamas.

The other sideline features Middle Tennessee (6-6, 4-4 C-USA), which defeated Florida Atlantic the final week of the regular season to qualify for bowl eligibility. Similar to Toledo, this will be the Blue Raiders’ first bowl appearance since 2018. The Blue Raiders nearly joined Toledo as a member of the Mid-American Conference during this season’s realignment carousel, but the Blue Raiders opted to remain in the C-USA for the foreseeable future.

The Bahamas Bowl features the first-ever matchup between Toledo and Middle Tennessee. As the first of 41 bowls to kick off in 2021, the event will be broadcast on ESPN at 12 pm ET on Friday, Dec. 17.