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Belk Bowl

Louisville Cardinals (7-5) vs. NC State Wolfpack (7-5)

Dec. 27, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Louisville take from Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: The season could not have started any worse for the Cardinals. Losses to FIU and Marshall -- at home no less -- contributed to a 2-4 start. It is not overly dramatic to say the season was on the brink. Coach Charlie Strong had enough of his players not listening to him. So he wanted his players to talk to each other. They aired out their grievances, discussed their problems, and vowed to find a way to get better. On the heels of that meeting, Louisville closed out the season on a 5-1 roll with a share of its first Big East title since 2006. Included in that run was a 38-35 win at West Virginia for its first win in Morgantown since 1990. It was an improbable finish to the season when you consider just how young Louisville is heading into its bowl game. Eleven freshmen have started a game this season -- including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. On the two-deep, there are 28 freshmen and sophomores. The defensive line was decimated with injuries to senior leader Greg Scruggs, along with B.J. Butler, Roy Philon and Randy Salmon. The team also had to overcome the emotional loss of cornerback Anthony Conner, who broke his neck against Rutgers. There also was a switch at coordinator with Shawn Watson replacing Mike Sanford in Week 5 at North Carolina. What ended up happening is this team grew up. Bridgewater ended the season with a terrific three-touchdown performance at USF to clinch the Big East title. Quarterback Dominique Brown was moved to running back and thrived at the position. The offensive line, so green at the start of the year, has made the biggest turnaround of any group in the Big East. The defense stopped giving up the big play and turned into one of the best in the league as well. After a three-year bowl drought, Strong has led this team to back-to-back bowl appearances. You see why he got a contract extension and raise earlier this season.


NC State take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: NC State will be making its third bowl appearance in four seasons under coach Tom O’Brien, and the Wolfpack did everything it could to make it as difficult as possible to get there. NC State was one of the ACC’s most inconsistent teams this season, beating rival UNC for a fifth straight season, then losing to an unheralded Boston College team, and rebounding to shock then-ranked No. 7 Clemson, 37-13. The Pack was in a must-win situation against Maryland to reach bowl eligibility, and it didn’t look good when they trailed 41-14 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. NC State put together the second-biggest comeback in school history, though, and beat the Terps 56-41 to get to the Belk Bowl. This will mark the second trip to Charlotte for State in a bowl game, having defeated South Florida, 14-0, in the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl. This will be the fourth meeting between NC State and Louisville, with Louisville winning each of the past three games, including a 19-10 win in their last meeting in 2007. State is making its 26th bowl appearance, and its 13-11-1 mark (.540) ranks 15th in winning percentage among all schools that have 15 or more bowl appearances.