Preview: PapaJohn.com Bowl

Preview of the PapaJohns.com Bowl fitting Rutgers against North Carolina State.

ROAD TO THE PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL

For the third time in four years, Rutgers (7-5, 5-2 Big East) faces a Bowl Championship Series opponent in the postseason when it takes on North Carolina State (6-6, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) in the PapaJohns.com Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET).

Both squads struggled to find an identity early in the season, and each team finished the month of October with a losing record. However, Rutgers and N.C. State enter the PapaJohns.com Bowl on a combined 10-game winning streak. The Scarlet Knights won their final six regular season games while N.C. State notched four consecutive victories to finish its regular season.

Rutgers is 2-2 in bowl games with two straight bowl wins after trouncing Ball State 52-30 in the International Bowl last season. N.C. State is 12-10-1 all-time in bowl games, including wins in three straight bowl appearances. This is the first bowl game for the Wolfpack since 2005.

Here's a quick breakdown of how each team got to the PapaJohns.com Bowl.


NORH CAROLINA STATE (6-6, 4-4 ACC)

Like Rutgers, N.C. State got off to a rough start and appeared to be headed home for the holidays. But the Wolfpack won their final four games of the season to qualify for their first bowl game since shutting out South Florida 14-0 in the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl.

The Wolfpack were erratic in the first half of the season with freshman Russell Wilson, an athletic quarterback, under center. They lost six of their first seven games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents and appeared to be down and out after losing consecutive divisional games to Boston College, Florida State and Maryland in October to drop to 2-6 on the year.

However, the Wolfpack ran off four consecutive ACC victories to rise to 6-6 and qualify for a postseason bowl. Wilson, who battled injuries early in the year, was finally healthy late in the season, and he ended up leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing efficiency (132.3) and total offense (211.1 yards per game).

North Carolina State tale of the tape:
Location: Raleigh, N.C.
Nickname: Wolfpack
Conference: Atlantic Coast
Head coach: Tom O'Brien (second season at N.C. State, 12th overall; 11-13 at N.C. State, 86-58 career)
Record: 6-6, 4-4 ACC (1-4 Atlantic Division)
Key wins: vs. No. 15 East Carolina (30-24 in OT); at No. 25 North Carolina (41-10); vs. Miami (38-28)
Key losses: vs. Boston College (38-31); vs. Florida State (26-17); at Maryland (27-24)
Aug. record: 0-1
Sept. record: 2-2
Oct. record: 0-3
Nov. record: 4-0
Record vs. bowl teams: 4-6
Leading passer: Russell Wilson (139-252 [55.2 %], 1,769 yards, 16 TDs, 1 INT, 176.9 ypg)
Leading rusher: Andre Brown (164 rushes, 728 yards, 6 TDs, 60.7 ypg)
Leading receiver: Owen Spencer (29 catches, 626 yards, 4 TDs, 102.4 ypg)
Offensive yards per game: 326.3 (89th nationally)
Passing offense: 200.8 (71)
Rushing offense: 125.5 (85)
Scoring offense: 23.5 (80)
Defensive yards per game: 387.1 (81)
Passing defense: 242.8 (94)
Rushing defense: 144.3 (65)
Scoring defense: 26.1 (66)
Turnover ratio: plus .92 per game (16)
Sacks: 23 (T-56)
Sacks allowed: 28 (T-93)

North Carolina State (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
DATE
OPPONENT
W/L
SCORE
Aug. 28
L
0-34
Sept. 6
WILLIAM & MARY
W
39-24
Sept. 13
at No. 23 Clemson*$
L
9-27
Sept. 14
No. 15 EAST CAROLINA
W
30-24 (OT)
Sept. 20
No. 13 SOUTH FLORIDA
L
10-41
Oct. 4
BOSTON COLLEGE*$
L
31-38
Oct. 16
FLORIDA STATE*$
L
17-26
Oct. 25
at Maryland*$
L
24-27
Nov. 8
at Duke*
W
27-17
Nov. 15
WAKE FOREST*$
W
21-17
Nov. 22
at No. 25 North Carolina*
W
41-10
Nov. 29
MIAMI (Fla.)*
W
38-28
* ACC game; $ ACC Atlantic game


RUTGERS (7-5, 5-2 Big East)

The Scarlet Knights were dreadful in the first half of the season, losing their first five games against FBS opponents, including their first two in Big East play. However, starting with a 12-10 homecoming victory against Connecticut, Rutgers rolled to six straight wins to finish 7-5 on the regular season.

Quarterback Mike Teel, who managed three touchdowns and seven interceptions through the first six games (1-5 RU record), threw 20 touchdowns to five picks over the final six games of the season. He twice set a school record for touchdown passes in a game and tied the Big East record for TD passes in a game. Rutgers averaged more than 50 points per game in its final four Big East contests.

Rutgers tale of the tape:
Location: New Brunswick, N.J.
Nickname: Scarlet Knights
Conference: Big East
Head coach: Greg Schiano (eighth season, 45-51)
Record: 7-5, 5-2 Big East
Key wins: vs. Connecticut (12-10); at No. 17 Pittsburgh (45-34); at South Florida (49-16)
Key losses: at Navy (23-21); at West Virginia (24-17); at Cincinnati (13-10)
Sept. record: 1-3
Oct. record: 2-2
Nov. record: 3-0
Dec. record: 1-0
Record vs. bowl teams: 3-5
Leading passer: Mike Teel (221-359 [61.6 %], 3,099 yards, 23 TDs, 12 INTs, 258.2 ypg)
Leading rusher: Kordell Young (136 rushes, 550 yards, 5 TDs, 78.6 ypg)
Leading receiver: Kenny Britt (81 catches, 1,252 yards, 6 TDs, 113.8 ypg)
Offensive yards per game: 395.2 (41st nationally)
Passing offense: 266.3 (22)
Rushing offense: 128.8 (81)
Scoring offense: 29.0 (41)
Defensive yards per game: 323.9 (34)
Passing defense: 184.9 (31)
Rushing defense: 139.0 (53)
Scoring defense: 18.5 (18)
Turnover ratio: minus .17 per game (T-71)
Sacks: 28 (T-37)
Sacks allowed: 19 (T-43)

Rutgers (7-5, 5-2 Big East)
DATE
OPPONENT
W/L
SCORE
Sept. 1
No. 25 FRESNO STATE
L
7-24
Sept. 1
NORTH CAROLINA
L
44-12
Sept. 20
at Navy
L
21-23
Sept. 27
MORGAN STATE
W
38-0
Oct. 4
at West Virginia*
L
17-24
Oct. 11
at Cincinnati*
L
10-13
Oct. 18
CONNECTICUT*
W
12-10
Oct. 25
at No. 17 Pittsburgh*
W
54-34
Nov. 8
SYRACUSE*
W
35-17
Nov. 15
at South Florida*
W
49-16
Nov. 22
ARMY
W
30-3
Dec. 4
LOUISVILLE*
W
63-14
* Big East game


COMMON OPPONENTS

Rutgers and North Carolina State have two common opponents this year in South Florida and North Carolina.

South Florida:
Ranked No. 13 at the time, USF ripped N.C. State 41-10 in Raleigh on Sept. 27. The Bulls jumped out to a 31-10 halftime lead and cruised as Matt Grothe accounted for 327 yards of total offense. However, N.C. State starter Russell Wilson was injured for this game, and backup Harrison Beck was ineffective. N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien said after the game that his defense couldn't match USF's offensive speed.

By the time Rutgers made its Nov. 15 trip to Tampa, USF was out of the rankings and limping toward the end of the season. RU trounced USF 49-16 as Mike Teel threw for 294 yards, Kenny Britt racked up 173 yards receiving and cornerback Jason McCourty grabbed a pair of interceptions. USF head coach Jim Leavitt hinted that his team quit on him during the second half.

North Carolina:
The Tar Heels took it to RU out of the gate and never looked back during a 44-12 rout at Rutgers Stadium on Sept. 11. Phenom receiver Brandon Tate accounted for 193 total yards rushing, receiving and returning, and he scored a pair of touchdowns. UNC, leading 17-6 at the half, scored twice early in the third quarter to break the game open.

Tate was out for the season when N.C. State faced its archrival on Nov. 24. The Wolfpack forced six UNC turnovers, and Wilson passed for a career-high 279 yards and ran for another 50 to help the Wolfpack score 31 second-half points in the victory. The Pack limited North Carolina to just 203 yards of total offense.


BOWL HISTORY

North Carolina State (12-10-1)
YEAR
BOWL
OPPONENT
W/L
SCORE
2005
Meineke Car Care
South Florida
W
14-0
2003
Tangerine
Kansas
W
56-26
2002
Gator
Notre Dame
W
33-6
2001
Tangerine
Pittsburgh
L
19-34
2000
Micron PC
Minnesota
W
38-30
1998
Micron PC
Miami (Fla.)
L
23-46
1993
Hall of Fame
Michigan
L
7-42
1991
Peach
East Carolina
L
34-37
1990
All-American
Southern Miss
W
31-27
1989
Copper
Arizona
L
10-17
1988
Peach
Iowa
W
33-23
1986
Peach
L
24-25
1978
Tangerine
Pittsburgh
W
30-17
1977
Peach
Iowa State
W
24-14
1975
Peach
West Virginia
L
10-13
1974
Bluebonnet
Houston
T
31-31
1973
Liberty
Kansas
W
31-18
1972
Peach
West Virginia
W
49-13
1967
Liberty
Georgia
W
14-7
1963
Liberty
Mississippi State
L
12-16
1940
Gator
Oklahoma
L
13-34

Rutgers (2-2)
YEAR
BOWL
OPPONENT
W/L
SCORE
2007
International
Ball State
W
52-30
2006
Texas
Kansas State
W
37-10
2005
Insight
Arizona State
L
40-45
1978
Garden State
Arizona State
L
18-34

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