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It's been a tense week of waiting for Eastern Michigan.

On Sunday afternoon, the Eagles could finally breathe a sign of relief.

For the second time in three years, Eastern is heading to a bowl game, with a Dec. 15 date with Georgia Southern in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.

This will be the first time since 1987 — when the late George H.W. Bush was vice president — that Eastern has played a bowl game in the United States. It played in the Bahamas Bowl in 2016, losing to Old Dominion, 24-20. It's the fourth bowl appearance in Eastern history.

"It was a big deal to the guys to be able to accomplish that as a goal and as a team and they worked really hard to make it happen," fifth-year coach Chris Creighton said. "Our guys are grateful for the opportunity and proud of the accomplishment at the same time.

"It's a blessing, it really is. Our team is just dead-set on making Eastern Michigan and the Eastern Michigan alumni, Ypsilanti and even the region proud."

"It's an awesome opportunity."

Last week, Creighton and EMU players did a mock video, set to Destiny's Child's "Say My Name," a creative lobbying effort to the selection committee as the Mid-American Conference was in a precarious position with seven bowl-eligible teams, and five guaranteed bowl tie-ins.

They still were sweating Sunday afternoon.

"We definitely were worried. We just didn't know," Creighton said before heading on the road for some recruiting. "Eighty-two worthy teams for 78 spots, you never know all the different factors that can go in it. We were hopeful, but didn't know."

Eastern, with an acclaimed defense that allowed an average of 22 points (the Eagles' best since 1993) and was led by all-MAC defensive lineman Maxx Crosby, finished the regular season 7-5, which included a big win over a Purdue team that later went on to hand Big Ten champion Ohio State its only loss of the season.

Creighton will receive a $25,000 bonus for making a bowl game, and gets another $25,000 if his team wins the bowl.

Georgia Southern is 9-3, and plays out of the Sun Belt Conference.

Six of the MAC's seven bowl-eligible teams landed bids, including Western Michigan (7-5), which will play in the Potato Bowl against BYU in Boise, Idaho.

MAC bowl matchups

Camellia Bowl, Dec. 15: Eastern Michigan vs. Georgia Southern

Boca Raton Bowl, Dec. 18: Northern Illinois vs. UAB

Frisco Bowl, Dec. 19: Ohio vs. San Diego State

Bahamas Bowl, Dec. 21: Toledo vs. Florida International

Potato Bowl, Dec. 21: Western Michigan vs. BYU

Dollar General Bowl, Dec. 22: Buffalo vs. Troy

Camellia Bowl

Who: Eastern Michigan vs. Georgia Southern

When: 5:30 Dec. 15, Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.

Records: Eastern Michigan 705, Georgia Southern 9-3

TV: ESPN

Tickets: camelliabowl.com

EMU's bowl history

1971 Pioneer Bowl: Louisiana Tech 14, EMU 3

1987 California Bowl: EMU 30, San Jose State 27

2016 Bahamas Bowl: Old Dominion 24, EMU 20

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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