Dec. 27, 2005 – 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Chase Field (42,915)
RUTGERS (7-4, 4-3 BIG EAST)
ARIZONA STATE (6-5, 4-4 PAC-10)
Rutgers' only other bowl appearance came in the 1978 Garden State Bowl (12/16/78) against this year's opponent – Arizona State. The Scarlet Knights fell to the Sun Devils, 34-18.
ASU is 11-9-1 all-time in bowl games. In their last bowl appearance, the Sun Devils defeated Purdue, 27- 23, in the 2004 Sun Bowl. Arizona State is 2-4 in its last six bowl games. ASU is 2-0 versus current members of the Big East in bowl games. In addition to beating RU in the 1978 Garden State Bowl, the Sun Devils also defeated Pittsburgh, 28-7, in the 1973 Fiesta Bowl. The last time ASU played a Big East team in a bowl games came in 2000 when former conference member Boston College downed the Sun Devils, 31-17, in the 2000 Aloha Bowl.
This season, Arizona State is led by a strong passing game. Quarterback Sam Keller threw for 2,165 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but injured the thumb on his throwing hand and was forced to miss the final four games of the season. Freshman Rudy Carpenter took over as the starter for Keller and registered 1,806 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. ASU wideout Derek Hagon caught 72 passes for 1,113 yards and eight touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Dale Robinson totaled 112 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss, and four sacks in 2005. Rutgers possesses a strong ground game led by fullback Brian Leonard (694 yards and 10 TD) and freshman running back Ray Rice (1,012 yards and 5 TD). Defensive end Ryan Neill, a SI.com Honorable Mention All-American, leads the Scarlet Knight defense. Neill has 9.0 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL
Dec. 31, 2005 – 11:00 a.m. (ESPN2)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Bank of America Stadium (73,238)
South Florida (6-5, 4-3 BIG EAST)
NORTH CAROLINA STATE (6-5, 3-5 ACC)
This is the first bowl appearance for a USF program that began in 1997. Head coach Jim Leavitt is the only coach the Bulls have had in their nine-year history.
NC State is 11-10-1 all-time in bowl games. In their last bowl appearance, the Wolfpack defeated Kansas, 56-26, in the 2003 Mazda Tangerine Bowl. NC State is 3-1 over its last four bowl games and is 2- 2 versus current members of the Big East in bowl games. The Wolfpack have split with Pittsburgh (losing to Pitt, 34-19, in the 2001 Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl & beating the Panthers, 30-17, in the 1978 Tangerine Bowl) and West Virginia (losing to WVU, 13-10, in the 1975 Peach Bowl & beating the Mountainteers, 49-13, in the 1972 Peach Bowl).
This season, NC State has relied on a strong defense which ranks 14th nationally in total defense (299.0). Linebacker Stephen Tulloch is tops on the Wolfpack in tackles with 119. A Walter Camp All-America Second Team performer, defensive end Marcus Williams leads NC State in sacks (13.0) and tackles for loss (20.0).
The Wolfpack started 2-4, but won four of their last five, including a 20-14 win in the regular season finale against Maryland to become bowl eligible. Quarterback Marcus Stone took over for Jay Davis as the starter against Southern Mississippi on Oct. 29 and went 4-1 as the starter. USF running back Andre Hall, second in the Big East and 24th nationally in rushing yards per game (114.2), will face a NC State defense ranked 17th in the nation against the run (104.5). Hall has nearly as many yards on the ground (1,256) as the entire Wolfpack team (1,320).
USF also possesses a strong defense ranked seventh nationally versus the pass (168.9) and 14th in scoring defense (18.4).
TOYOTA GATOR BOWL
Jan. 2, 2006 – 12:30 p.m. (NBC)
ALLTEL Stadium (73,000)
LOUISVILLE (9-2, 5-2 BIG EAST)
VIRGINIA TECH (10-2, 7-1 ACC)
Louisville is 5-5-1 all-time in bowl games. Last season, the Cardinals defeated Boise State, 44-40, in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. This is Louisville's first bowl appearance versus the ACC.
Virginia Tech owns a 6-12 mark all-time in bowl games. The Hokies lost to Auburn, 16-13, in last season's Sugar Bowl. Virginia Tech has appeared in a bowl game in 13 straight seasons. The Hokies are 0-1 versus current BIG EAST members in bowls, losing to Cincinnati, 18- 6, in 1947 Sun Bowl.
This game will feature one of the country's most potent offenses against once of the nation's stingiest defenses. Louisville ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense (3rd, 45.2 ppg), total offense (7th, 494.7) and passing offense (9th, 300.6). Virginia Tech is first in the nation in total defense (239.7), second in pass defense (149.1), third in scoring defense (12.0) and fourth in rushing defense (90.6).
Hokie cornerback Jimmy Williams (first team) and defensive end Darryl Tapp (second team) each earned Associated Press All-America honors. Williams, a finalist for both the Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe Awards, has 44 tackles and an interception in 2005. Offensively, quarterback Marcus Vick has passed for 2,190 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 370 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Louisville must make up for the loss of quarterback Brian Brohm, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Brohm, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, was second in the nation in passing efficiency. Freshman quarterback Hunter Cantwell will get his second start in place of Brohm.
Running back Michael Bush leads the nation in scoring (16.0) and is 20th nationally in rushing (116.6). U of L defensive end Elvis Dumervil leads the nation in sacks (1.82 per game) and forced fumbles (0.91 per game).
NOKIA SUGAR BOWL
Jan. 2, 2006 – 8:30 p.m. (ABC)
Georgia Dome (75,000)
WEST VIRGINIA (10-1, 7-0 BIG EAST)
GEORGIA (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
West Virginia, the only Big East Conference team to earn at least a share of the last three league titles, has appearanced in a bowl for three straight seasons and in four of the last five years. The Mountaineers are 9-15 all-time in bowl games. Last season, WVU lost to Florida State, 30-18, in last season's Toyota Gator Bowl.
West Virginia is 5-2 all-time versus current SEC members in bowl games. The Mountaineers last appearance versus the SEC in a bowl game came in 2000 when WVU defeated Mississippi, 49-38, in the Music City Bowl.
Georgia is 21-15-3 all-time in bowl games. Last season, the Bulldogs defeated Wisconsin, 24-21, in the Outback Bowl. Georgia has won its last three bowl games and is 7-1 over its last eight.
The Bulldogs are 0-3 versus current Big East members in bowl games (0-2 vs. Pitt, 0-1 vs. Syracuse). The last time Georgia faced a Big East team in a bowl game was in 2001, when the Bulldogs lost to former conference member Boston College, 20-16, in the Music City Bowl.
This season, Georgia ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (4th, 14.6) and pass defense (10th, 173.8). Bulldog safety Greg Blue and offensive guard Max Jean-Gilles were named to the Associated Press All-America First Team , while kicker Brandon Coutu was chosen as a third team performer.
Quarterback D.J. Shockley guides the Georgia offensive attack. Shockley, an All-SEC First Team player, passed for 2,311 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.
A pair of freshmen lead the West Virginia offense. Running back Steve Slaton, the Big East Rookie of the Year, has 952 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. Quarterback Pat White has 875 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, along with 708 yards passing and seven touchdowns.