East Carolina (6-6, 5-3 Conference USA) vs. Maryland (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
December 29, 2010 2:30 PM ET ESPN
History: The Military Bowl, formerly known as the EagleBank Bowl, is played in the nation’s capital at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. The bowl game is now sponosored by defense contractor Northrop Grunman, which brought about the change in name this year as recently as October 26th. Not surprisingly, the game is designed to host one of the military institutions (Navy or Army) depending on a variety of factors, including bowl eligibility. 2010 will be the third year the game is played, with UCLA beating Temple last year and Wake Forest defeating Navy in the inaugural contest.
The Military Bowl gives a percentage of its proceeds to the United Service Organizations (USO), which provides support for our military personnel through a variety of programs and services. The bowl game’s committee hopes that the game will bring over $10 million of economic impact to the Washington, DC area.
The Pirates have appeared in bowl games each of the past four seasons but have had limited success, losing last year to Arkansas and going 1-3 overall. East Carolina is an offensive power, ranking 7th in the NCAA in passing yards and 12th in average scoring. Junior quarterback Dominique Davis leads the offense, racking up 36 touchdowns on 3,699 yards passing for the season. Half of Davis’ touchdowns came in the last five games of the season, and wideout Lance Lewis was on the receiving end of 13 touchdowns over the course of all the team’s games.
It’s important for the Pirates to pile up the offensive numbers, because their defense is nothing less than horrendous. East Carolina gives up an average of over 43 points and 220 yards rushing per game! The team is basically squeaking into the bowl game, as they lost four of their last five games, including a 76-35 drubbing at the hands of Navy. Yes, 76 points.
The Terps managed to put together a fairly respectable season in the ACC this year. Their losses came against Clemson, Miami (FL), and #25 Florida State, plus an out-of-conference loss to West Virginia in their second game. The season ended on a high note with a victory over North Carolina State, ranked #21 at the time.
Maryland missed out on bowl eligibility last year, previously appearing in bowl play in 2008 when they defeated Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl. It will only be a short drive for fans to see the team play this year, as the stadium is a mere 10 miles south of the Maryland campus. Freshman Danny O’Brien quarterbacks for the Terrapins and threw for 21 touchdowns on the season, compared to only six interceptions. O’Brien was named the ACC Rookie of the Year for his strong performance.
The real story for Maryland coming into this game is the fact that head coach Ralph Friedgen is on his way out after the final seconds tick away. Friedgen’s departure is coming about as the result of an involuntary termination announced on December 20th. Interestingly, this is in the context of a huge turnaround from last season’s 2-10 record, an achievement that earned Friedgen ACC Coach of the Year honors! Friedgen has amassed a record of 74-50 over his 10-year tenure at Maryland.
In contrast to the outgoing Friedgen, East Carolina features first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill, whose scowling face many will recognize from the sidelines of Texas Tech, where McNeill was an assistant under former coach Mike Leach. To add an extra element of intrigue to the game tomorrow, Leach is one name being thrown around as a possible replacement for Friedgen.
Who are we picking?
- Mali – Maryland
- Eric – Maryland
- Jim – Maryland
- Joe – Maryland
- Jeff – Maryland
- Jay – Maryland
Defense not only wins championships, but also bowl games apparently, at least according to our “panel of experts.” We’re predicting that the Terps get the victory despite the Pirates’ high-flying offense and send Ralph Friedgen out with one last bowl win to add to his resume as he begins his search for a new job.