Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Monday, December 23, 2013
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl preview

By Austin Ward

A glance at the lone game on Monday’s schedule, a clash between Ohio (7-5) and East Carolina (9-3) in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (TV: ESPN, 2 p.m. ET).

Who to watch: Shane Carden might have been working well outside of the spotlight compared to the rest of the nation’s most prolific quarterbacks, but he has earned the right to be in that conversation with another eye-popping statistical season leading the attack for the Pirates. The junior ranks sixth in the country in passing yardage with 3,866 in the regular season, two spots ahead of a pair of guys with Heisman Trophies on their mantles in Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel. While Carden gets nowhere near the acclaim, he has steadily picked apart defenses all season, throwing for more than 300 yards in seven games thanks in part to a productive partnership with junior wide receiver Justin Hardy that generated 105 receptions, more than 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns.

What to watch: With almost no bowl history to speak of until 2007, coach Frank Solich has turned the Bobcats into a fixture of the postseason recently, hitting the road around the holidays for five straight seasons -- and playing some pretty entertaining affairs along the way. Ohio won a thriller two years ago over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and backed that up with a blowout win over Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl. The Bobcats will need a defense that has had its ups and downs to play like the unit that allowed a total of three points in consecutive outings in September and not the one that was gouged for 49 and 44 points in losses to Bowling Green and Kent State.

Why to watch: For starters, the Bobcats and Pirates have the stage all to themselves, and with only one bowl on the docket, they offer the only college football fix of the day. But beyond that, East Carolina has an offense built to put up fireworks and provide some entertainment. And under Solich, the Bobcats have rarely backed down from a challenge and have proved to be a motivated bunch in bowl games recently.

Prediction: East Carolina 41, Ohio 27