One of the great joys of the bowl season is the unique settings for some of college football's premier holiday season exhibitions. While tourist destinations have been the target of bowl games since their introductions, the bar was certainly raised in 2014 with the creation of the Bahamas Bowl.
At the time, the Bahamas Bowl became the first major college football game to be played outside the United States and Canada since 1937. Since its inception, the Bahamas Bowl has produced mostly competitive -- and occasionally chaotic -- games between Conference USA and MAC opponents. This year, a trip to the Bahamas and week of festivities, including the game, was awarded to Buffalo and Charlotte.
The two programs had some wild finishes to the year, including the 49ers winning five straight to even qualify for bowl eligibility. Now they and the Bulls will get their chance to showcase their programs on a national stage in the first bowl game of the season. Let's take a closer look at what to expect from Nassau.
Event: Bahamas Bowl
Date: Friday, Dec. 20 | Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: Thomas Robinson Stadium -- Nassau, Bahamas
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Buffalo: Don't sleep on this Buffalo team, which has proven to be elite this season at running the ball and stopping the run. The Bulls rank fourth in the nation in rush defense, allowing less than 100 yards per game, and they've set a new single-season program record with 3,241 rushing yards. Much of that has been thanks to Jaret Patterson (1,626 yards) and Kevin Marks (1,008), who became the first Buffalo duo to rush for 1,000 yards in school history. Patterson ranks No. 5 nationally in rushing and also grabbed a new program single-season record as Buffalo is playing in only its fourth bowl game in school history and is still in search of its first bowl win.
Charlotte: The 49ers football program has only been in existence for seven years in total and just five at the FBS level. After a 2-5 start, it looked the 2019 season was going to end like the previous seasons of bowl eligibility with a holiday season spent at home. But Will Healy, the 34-year old head coach in his first year with Charlotte, and the 2019 49ers went on to finish the season with five straight wins to earn the program's first-ever bowl appearance. Among the many storylines that highlighted this incredible turnaround were Charlotte's rushing attack, which was led by running back Benny LeMay and ranked No. 1 in Conference USA, and the defensive dominance of defensive end Alex Highsmith. A former walk-on, Highsmith finished No. 2 in the country with 14.0 sacks, trailing only Ohio State star Chase Young.
Charlotte is hoping to cap off what has already been a breakout year with its first-ever bowl win. If the 49ers can pull it off, you can bet "Club Lit" will be open for business again, with a Bahamas flare this time.
Bahamas Bowl prediction, picks
One of the aspects of playing in the Bahamas is the impact of the wind off the water. That's where Charlotte could have an advantage in this game with a rushing attack that ranks in the top 25 nationally in yards per attempt. It's strength on strength with Buffalo's equally elite run defense, but in a game that's often close and exciting, I'm happy to the underdog and the points. Pick: Charlotte (+6.5)
Who wins Buffalo vs. Charlotte in the Bahamas Bowl? And which side of the spread can you bank on in well over 50 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that is up nearly $4,000 on its top-rated picks, and find out.