Miami faces future ACC member Louisville on Saturday night. (Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)
(Author’s note: This piece covers the bowl games played by ACC schools before December 31. The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl between Georgia Tech and Ole Miss will be covered in the SEC version of this article, as Ole Miss is the “home” team.)
The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. We spend time with loved ones for the holiday season, there is a chill in the air and we eat way too much food. Along with all those wonderful things, it is bowl season. Our favorite teams will take the field in games that some call meaningless and others call exhilarating, but one thing is for sure: everyone will watch. There are a number of games taking place prior to our celebrating the arrival of 2014, and we will review those in our Keyword Search feature here. Before we do, though, it’s trivia time!
2013 ACC Bowls (Part 1) Trivia (answer at the end of the article): The ACC owns the three longest active bowl appearance streaks. Which schools own those streaks?
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Pitt (6-6, 3-5 ACC) vs. Bowling Green (10-3, 7-1 MAC)
Thursday, Dec. 26, 6pm ET, ESPN
Long time, no see: Pitt and Bowling Green have not faced off on the gridiron in five years. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 27-17 in Pittsburgh to begin the 2008 season. Pittsburgh has never faced a MAC opponent in a bowl game, and Bowling Green has never faced an ACC opponent in a bowl game. Adam Scheier will be at the helm for the Falcons on an interim basis, with BGSU head coach Dave Clawson having accepted the job at Wake Forest.
The statistical advantage: Bowling Green outranks Pittsburgh in nearly every major statistical category. Pittsburgh attempts three more passes per game (31.6-28.5) than the Falcons, though this is the only category in which BGSU is outperformed. BGSU holds a considerable advantage in turnover margin, having a plus-10 turnover margin. The Panthers are minus-1 in turnovers.
Getting the digits: Bowling Green has scored in double digits in every game this season, with their lowest output of the season coming in a 42-10 loss at Indiana in week three. Pitt scored in double figures in all but one game this season, a 19-9 loss to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman
Maryland (7-5, 3-5 ACC) vs. Marshall (9-4, 7-1 C-USA)
Friday, Dec. 27, 2:30pm ET, ESPN
Five is the magic number: Both schools have notched five bowl victories since 2000. Marshall is 5-1, with victories in the Motor City Bowl (2000), GMAC Bowl (2001 and 2002), Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (2009) and Beef O’Brady’s Bowl (2011). The Thundering Herd’s lone loss came in a 32-14 defeat to Cincinnati in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl. Maryland owns victories in the Peach Bowl (2002), Gator Bowl (2004), Champs Sports Bowl (2006), Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl (2008) and Military Bowl (2010). Florida defeated Maryland 56-23 in the 2002 Orange Bowl , while Oregon State claimed a 21-14 win over the Terps in the 2007 Emerald Bowl.
An appropriate nickname: The Thundering Herd certainly do their share of thundering on the offensive side of the football. Doc Holliday’s team ranks in the top 25 in every major offensive category. Marshall’s 43 points per game ranks seventh in the FBS. The Herd ranks 12th in total offense, averaging 502.3 yards per game.
What a rush: Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown has seven career 100-yard rushing games, with four of those contests coming this season. Brown broke the century mark against FIU (105 yards), UConn (122), Virginia Tech (122) and NC State (138). Brown’s 258.3 yards of offense per game were fourth-best in the conference, trailing only Tajh Boyd, Jameis Winston and Logan Thomas.
Syracuse (6-6, 4-4 ACC) vs. Minnesota (8-4, 4-4 Big Ten)
Friday, Dec. 27, 6pm ET, ESPN
You again: Minnesota and Syracuse played each other in 2009 and 2012, with the Gophers winning both contests. The 2012 affair was a 17-10 Gopher decision in Minneapolis. The teams have played four times in their history, with Minnesota winning three. The lone Syracuse victory came in the Carrier Dome in 1995. The then-Orangemen won that game 27-17.
You shall not pass: Syracuse struggled through the air without Ryan Nassib this season. The Orange ranked 12th in the ACC (102nd nationally) in passing, throwing for just 181.5 yards per game. Syracuse rushes for 193.8 yards per game, good for 39th in the nation. Minnesota also flexes its muscle in the ground game, carrying for 200.9 yards per game (34th-best).
It’s been awhile: The Gophers last won eight games in a season ten years ago. That 2003 season was capped by a 31-30 Minnesota victory over Oregon in the Sun Bowl. Laurence Maroney carried 15 times for 131 yards and a score, while Thomas Tapeh added three touchdowns on 40 rushing yards.
North Carolina (6-6, 4-4 ACC) vs. Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2 AAC)
Saturday, Dec. 28, 3:20pm ET, ESPN
Tar Heel turnaround: Only six teams since 2006 have started the season 1-5, only to play their final down in a bowl game. North Carolina is that sixth club. Larry Fedora’s club started the season with a 27-10 loss to South Carolina, then defeated Middle Tennessee 40-20. The Tar Heels lost their next four contests, falling to Georgia Tech, East Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami. It would be over a month until the next Tar Heel loss, a two-point defeat by Duke to close the season.
Familiar surroundings: Cincinnati will take on an ACC opponent in the Belk Bowl for the second consecutive year. The Bearcats defeated Duke 48-34 in the 2012 edition of this game. Duke led the game 16-3 after a quarter, with that Bearcat field goal part of 27 unanswered Cincinnati points. Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay completed 17-of-25 passes in the contest, throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns.
On the defensive: North Carolina’s 68th-ranked defensive unit gets a stiff test from the Bearcats. Carolina allows 407.7 yards per game, while Cincinnati’s 20th-ranked offense posts 482.3 yards in each contest. Both teams feature powerful passing attacks, with Cincinnati ranked 15th in passing (313.8 yards per game) and North Carolina 23rd (286.3 yards). Amazingly, both teams lost their starting quarterbacks (Cincinnati’s Munchie Legaux and UNC’s Bryn Renner) to season-ending injuries.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Miami (9-3, 5-3 ACC) vs. #18 Louisville (11-1, 7-1 AAC)
Saturday, Dec. 28, 6:45pm ET, ESPN
The names have been changed to protect the innocent: Miami has played in this bowl game four times, and it has featured a different name each time Miami has appeared. Miami beat Virginia 31-21 in the 1996 Carquest Bowl, then notched a 46-23 victory against NC State in the 1998 MicronPC Bowl. Wisconsin beat Miami 20-14 in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl. Those games represented three of Miami’s 35 bowl appearances in school history.
Getting to know you: Miami and Louisville will play in the same conference next year, as Louisville joins the ACC. The schools have played eleven times in their history, with Miami winning nine, among a 13-13 tie in 1950. Louisville won the most recent game between the two, a 31-7 victory on September 16th, 2006.
Robust Redbirds: For all of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s success, the Cardinals’ calling card is their defense. Louisville ranks second in the nation in total defense (257.9 yards per game) and rushing defense (86.3 yards per game). The Cards rank third in points per game, allowing 12.4 points per outing. Louisville also leads the nation in sacks (3.25 per game) and is second in turnover margin (1.3 per game). Miami ranks 24th in points scored (35.9) and 29th in rushing offense (274.3 yards per game). The ‘Canes rushing attack will have to function without injured running back Duke Johnson. Miami running back Dallas Crawford tallied 12 touchdowns on the season, despite breaking the 55-yard barrier just twice on the season (137 against North Carolina and 115 against Duke).
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: The ACC owns the three longest active bowl appearance streaks. Which schools own those streaks?
Florida State owns the longest active bowl appearance streak in the country. The BCS National Championship game will mark the Seminoles’ 32nd consecutive appearance. Virginia Tech is second (21 consecutive appearances), while Georgia Tech shares the third-longest active streak (17).