Just one more day until gameday for our California Golden Bears. But in the meantime, relax. Dial down your anticipation and watch some other games. Bowl season rolls on with two games today.
First, we've got BIG vs. MAC. More specifically, it is the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit, featuring the Purdue Boilermakers out of the Big1T2en (or, as the logo says, the "BIG") and the Western Michigan Broncos from the Mid-America Conference (aka the "MAC"). So yeah -- Pizza Pizza has a BIG/MAC matchup. That one kicks off at 1:30 PT on the Worldwide Leader.
In your nightcap, maybe it's a letdown. You don't have a matchup of conference acronyms in a bowl game that reminds you of food. But don't judge the book by its cover! You have the Big East versus the ACC in the heart of ACC country: the Louisville Cardinals against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. It has the potential of a good game, as both teams were playing their best football at the end of the regular season.
(Sidebar: do you know what "Belk" is? I had to look it up. It's a retail department store. I had no idea. Maybe I need to get out more.)
This is your open thread for these bowl games. Discuss all the action here. Learn a little bit more about each game after the jump.
Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl-- Detroit, 1:30 pm PT, ESPN
Purdue Boilermakers (6-6 overall, 4-4 Big Ten) vs. Western Michigan Broncos (7-5 overall, 5-3 MAC)
Purdue is playing in a bowl game for the first time since the 2007 season, which is also the last time the Boilermakers posted a winning season. Purdue suffered a curious early-season loss to Rice in a nonconference game, but regrouped to post a .500 record in Big1T2en play, including a nice 26-23 overtime win over Ohio State.
Meanwhile, Western Michigan makes the 140-mile trip from Kalamazoo to Detroit to play in its first bowl game since the 2008 season. The Broncos are searching for the first bowl win in program history. They scored more than 60 points in a game twice this season -- and won one of those games! WMU averages 35.6 points per game, which ranks 18th in the FBS.
The MAC's SB Nation Blog, Hustle Belt, gave us a skinny on this one
This is where the selection process got goofy. Obviously because Toledo was plucked by another bowl, supposedly against a "better opponent," WMU was promoted to the second-best MAC bowl, even though they seemed destined for a weird, mysterious destination. Now they get a home game in their home state and the Big Ten finally sends a team to this bowl for the first time in four years. Purdue did all right in the Big Ten, holding their own and besting Illinois and Ohio State. Assuming Alex Carder heals up by then, they'll have a great test since the Boilermakers haven't allowed a 300-yard passer since, of all teams, Middle Tennessee State in the opener. Their run defense won't have a huge test against Purdue but must do their job so that they're not playing catch-up.
Belk Bowl -- Charlotte, 5:00 pm PT, ESPN
Louisville Cardinals (7-5 overall, 5-2 Big East) vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5 overall, 4-4 ACC)
The Belk Bowl combatants come into this game on the warm side of the hot streak spectrum. Louisville won five of its last six regular season games and, remarkably, had a shot at the Big East's automatic bid to a BCS bowl before losing out on a tiebreaker. N.C. State, on the other hand, won its last two games, including a 37-13 throttling of then-7th ranked Clemson. The Wolfpack finished off its regular season in style, rallying from 27 points down in the third quarter to beat Maryland.
Louisville's biggest strides during its surge came on the offensive side of the ball once Teddy Bridgewater settled in at quarterback. He set a school record for passing yards by a freshman (1,855) and had arguably his best game in the season finale at South Florida, where he threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns to rally the Cardinals to a 34-24 victory.
"He plays with so much poise and he's a guy that can get us out of bad plays," [Louisville Coach Charlie] Strong said of the quarterback, who was named Big East rookie of the year. "It's been fun to watch him. But Teddy's development has come because of the development of the offensive line. ... At the beginning of the season we couldn't run the football. Then our last six games we were able to rush for over 100 yards (every game)."
The Cardinals have a solid tandem at running back in Dominique Brown and Victor Anderson, who combined for 960 yards and seven TDs. Bridgewater's favorite targets through the air are fellow freshmen Michaelee Harris and Eli Rogers, who had 37 and 34 receptions, respectively.
[N.C. State quarterback] Mike Glennon, who stepped into the starting quarterback role after Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, finished with 2,790 yards and 28 touchdown passes -- including six games with at least three scoring tosses. The junior threw five TD passes Nov. 26 versus the Terrapins and ran for a sixth as the Wolfpack overcame a 41-14 deficit in the final 21 minutes.
Glennon spread the wealth among his receivers -- six players had at least 25 receptions. T.J. Graham had 39 catches with team highs of 641 yards and five touchdowns, and junior running back James Washington anchored the ground game with 852 yards and seven scores while adding 39 receptions for 300 yards.
North Carolina State led all FBS teams with 24 interceptions, including a school-record and national-best 11 by sophomore David Amerson. The 6-foot-3 cornerback, who also had 37 solo tackles and 54 overall, won the Jack Tatum Award and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Enjoy the games.
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