Dec. 21, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Southern Miss take by nation blogger Andrea Adelson: The Golden Eagles beat eventual C-USA champion UCF earlier this year, but a pair of one-point losses to East Carolina and UAB kept them from winning the East. Still, they have the longest active bowl streak in Conference USA with nine straight, and have one hot quarterback in Austin Davis, who is playing his best football of the season.
The problem for Southern Miss of late has been its defense, which has given up way too many points. Four times in its final five games, the Golden Eagles gave up 30-plus points. That includes the 50-49 loss to UAB in overtime. The defense failed them as well against the Pirates at home earlier in the season. One thing about this team, though, they will be playing with plenty of inspiration.
Three players were shot following a fight at a club that spilled into the parking lot after the team returned home from its 31-21 win over UCF on Nov. 13. Linebacker Martez Smith was paralyzed from the waist down, while Tim Green cannot speak after reportedly being shot in the neck. Defensive end Dedrick Jones also was shot. The team wears a decal on its helmets in the shape of a heart with their decals inside. They are 1-1 since the shootings, winning an inspired game over Houston the week after it happened and losing the finale at Tulsa.
Louisville take by Big East blogger Brian Bennett: The 6-6 record may not look impressive, but Charlie Strong worked wonders in his first year in Louisville.
Everyone picked the Cardinals to finish last in the Big East, and the team he inherited was roundly considered to have the least amount of talent in the league. But Strong and his staff got the most out of a previously underachieving group of seniors, with tailback Bilal Powell the prime example. Powell, who had never broke 400 yards in a season, erupted for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns behind a veteran offensive line.
It's on defense, though, where Strong truly made his mark. Despite lacking size or elite playmakers, the Cardinals finished 12th in the country in total defense while locking opponents down in the final month of the season.
Louisville was competitive in every game this season but needed to beat Rutgers in the finale to clinch its first bowl appearance since the 2006 season. Quarterback Adam Froman, who missed the final four games with a thigh injury, could be healed in time for this game. The Cardinals’ seniors are excited about playing in their first bowl, and they'll look to continue the Big East's recent domination of Conference USA in the postseason.