NCF Nation: 2010 Military Bowl Preview

It’s been an emotional month for Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who will coach his final game after athletic director Kevin Anderson announced the department would buy out the final year of Friedgen’s contract. Friedgen was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year and Maryland had the second-best turnaround in the FBS, but it wasn’t enough to save Friedgen’s job. The Terps are looking to send him out on a winning note. Here’s a quick preview of the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman.

WHO TO WATCH: Maryland receiver Torrey Smith. This could be his final game, as the junior is considering leaving early to enter the NFL draft. He has 12 touchdown receptions, which is tied for eighth in the FBS, while his 87.08 receiving yards-per-game average is 20th.

WHAT TO WATCH: Maryland’s secondary against East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. If the Pirates are going to win, they’re going to have to do it with their passing game, which ranks seventh in the NCAA at 319.33 yards per game. Davis, a Boston College transfer, passed for 3,699 yards, the fourth-most in the nation, while completing nearly 65 percent of his passes and throwing for 36 touchdowns. The Terps had at least one interception in 10 of 12 games this season. Kenny Tate ranks tied for fifth in the FBS in forced fumbles (0.33 pg), safety Antwine Perez is tied for 11th in the FBS in fumbles recovered (0.25 pg) and leads the team in pass breakups (eight). Cornerbacks Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes are tied for second on the team with seven pass breakups apiece.

WHY TO WATCH: This is Friedgen’s farewell after a decade coaching his alma mater, and a win would give the program at least nine wins for the first time since 2006. It will also be interesting to see how the play-calling goes, as the departure of former offensive coordinator James Franklin to Vanderbilt left the Terps in an awkward situation. Running backs coach John Donovan, who will eventually join Franklin on his staff, stayed behind to coach in the bowl game and will call the plays. Maryland is bowl-eligible for the seventh time in 10 seasons under Friedgen and is 4-2 during that span. The four bowl wins are the most in school history.

PREDICTION: Maryland 31, East Carolina 24 -- Instead of letting Friedgen’s farewell become a distraction or a spoiler, the Terps will use it as motivation and rally together to send him off with a win. East Carolina’s defense won’t be able to stop ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien, and Smith will have another eye-popping statistical performance.
East Carolina has made five straight bowl appearances but has only one win to show for its previous four. The Pirates face a big challenge against Maryland on Wednesday in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, especially considering they ended the season with losses in four of their last five games because their defense fell apart. Still, making a bowl game is a good accomplishment for first-year coach Ruffin McNeill, who inherited a team that returned just eight starters.

WHO TO WATCH: East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. He came in as a junior college transfer after playing his first season at Boston College and is one of the biggest reasons East Carolina is in a bowl game. His Hail Mary touchdown pass with no time left in the season-opener against Tulsa essentially put the Pirates in this game. He already has established new school single-season records for attempts (552), completions (358), passing yardage (3,699) and touchdown passes, 36) and ranks No. 1 in the country in completions per game and points responsible for per game; fourth in passing yards per game and total passing yards (3,699); and sixth in total offense per game. Davis has thrived in the spread option, even though he had to sit out spring practice.

WHAT TO WATCH: East Carolina's defense. OK, there has not been much to watch this season with a defense that has been a sieve, ranking last in the nation in total D. East Carolina has had to outscore people to win all season long, but with extra time to prepare, perhaps the Pirates will be up to the task. This is the same Pirates team that beat NC State this season and held the Wolfpack to 27 points. One of the biggest matchups to watch is Maryland receiver Torrey Smith against Pirates cornerbacks Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons.

WHY TO WATCH: The chances for an offensive back-and-forth are great, and who doesn’t like a little bit of an offensive showdown every once in a while? The Pirates have had some heart-stopping wins this year – the Hail Mary victory against Tulsa and the overtime win against NC State, and a one-point win against Southern Miss. You can’t accuse the Pirates of being boring to watch.

PREDICTION: Maryland 45, East Carolina 40. The Pirates have given up 54.8 points per game in their past five and are going to have a tough time slowing the Terrapins down. Expect an inspired Maryland team to be playing for coach Ralph Friedgen, in his final game at Maryland.