Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, December 29, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
What it is: A test of your patriotism.
The teams: East Carolina and Maryland
How East Carolina got here: By the skin of their proverbial teeth. The Pirates defeated Tulsa by two, Southern Miss by one and N.C. State in overtime. They also got clocked by Virginia Tech, UNC, Navy(!) and a pretty bad Rice team. On the year, ECU was outscored by 63 points overall. Part of that probably has to do with having the 91st-ranked rushing offense, one of the worst among the 70 bowl teams; ECU got outgained by more than 1,100 yards on the ground this year. The team actually seemed to be headed in the right direction with the win against the Wolfpack, but two weeks later, they started a 1-4 run that would drop them to break-even on the season. The Pirates do have a solid quarterback in Dominique Davis, who threw for 3,699 yards and 36 TDs against 14 interceptions, and a pair of great wide receivers in Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis.
How Maryland got here: For understandable and definable reasons, for a change. The Terps outscored their opponents on the season and outgained them on a per-play basis (though they still lost the overall yardage battle), all of which was confusing enough to the people of College Park that they decided to fire Ralph Friedgen. (Losing their head-coach-in-waiting to Vanderbilt probably had something to do with that, but I digress.) Maryland wasn't without some smoke and mirrors this year -- it wouldn't be Maryland if it was. The Terps average a plus-one turnover margin per game and are tied for 11th in the NCAA in interceptions, with 17. Still, even the turnover margin seems to be Maryland creating its own luck; the Terps are one of only five teams in the NCAA with fewer than 14 turnovers on the year. (They're tied for third with 12.) Quarterback Danny O'Brien hasn't done too much -- he only has 2,275 yards on the season -- but he doesn't make many mistakes (21 TDs, 6 INTs). He also had a star turn in the regular-season finale against N.C. State, going 33-of-47 for 417 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs.
College football fans care because: It's the end of the Ralph Friedgen Era at Maryland, for reasons that still seem bizarre.
SEC fans care because: Even though new Vanderbilt coach James Franklin won't be coaching Maryland in the bowl, it seems unlikely that the offense will be much different than what he had in place there, or what he will likely install at Vanderbilt.
Watch this game if...: You don't want the terrorists to win.
The result: Maryland 38, East Carolina 17