Dec. 29, 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
East Carolina take by nation blogger Andrea Adelson: The Pirates were tabbed to have a rebuilding year under first-year coach Ruffin McNeill, especially with only two starters returning on defense. After opening the season strong at 5-2, the Pirates fell apart, losing four of their last five because their defense just didn't hold up. In those five games, East Carolina gave up 54.8 points per game. They rank last in the nation in total defense and No. 118 in scoring defense, and gave up an embarrassing 76 points in a loss to Navy.
But anytime you play East Carolina, you are most likely going to get into a shootout because their offense has been prolific behind quarterback Dominique Davis. The Boston College transfer threw for 3,699 yards and 36 touchdowns this season, leading the league in passing. His top receiver is Dwayne Harris, who had 1,055 yards and 10 touchdown receptions this season and led the league in receptions per game with 7.8. East Carolina won back-to-back Conference USA championships before this season, so the Pirates are no strangers to winning big games. But they have dropped four of their last five bowl games and are going to need to keep up on offense to have any shot in this game.
Maryland take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen was expecting a higher-tier bowl for his eight-win Terps, but considering the program won just two games a year ago, those within it are also happy to be back in the postseason.
Friedgen was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year for the turnaround, which was the second-best in the FBS this year, and quarterback Danny O’Brien was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. Together they put Maryland in position to win the Atlantic Division title, but a loss to Florida State knocked the Terps out of the title game race.
Maryland responded by playing the role of spoiler win a win over NC State in its season finale, a game in which O’Brien and receiver Torrey Smith had career days. Much of Maryland’s success this year can be attributed to its turnover margin, which is tied for seventh in the country. Defensively, Maryland has made significant improvement in defensive coordinator Don Brown’s second season. The Terps’ secondary will be tested by ECU quarterback Dominique Davis, whose 3,699 passing yards ranks fourth in the nation. Maryland ranks No. 9 in the country in pass efficiency defense. Maryland has won four of its past five bowl games and has outscored its last four bowl opponents 151-73.