Little Caesars Bowl 2013 Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Bowling Green Falcons

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Panthers move from Birmingham to Detroit for their postseason game, while Bowling Green tries to rebound from losing a coach

Little Caesar's Bowl, Thursday, 6 pm ET, ESPN

Suggested slogan: It may be in Detroit in December, but at least it's indoors.

The teams: Pittsburgh Panthers and Bowling Green Falcons

How Pitt got here: Ah, Pitt. In each of the three previous seasons, the Panthers' reward for barely scraping into the postseason was to chance a stadium collapse at Legion Field in Whatever the Birmingham Bowl Was Named That Year. The team finally gets its reprieve as a newly minted ACC team ... by going to Detroit. So, basically, the same thing, with the only difference being that Detroit is closer to Canada. But despite Pitt's .500 record, there were some decent wins for the Panthers, who beat Duke in a wild, 58-55 shootout that Pitt almost choked away and a home win against Notre Dame. Not the stuff that legends are made of, but solid wins nonetheless. The Panthers seem determined to break the "team who runs the best will win the game" meme by rushing for only 114.9 yards a game, or 3.3 yards a carry. The best individual season came from Nagurski/Bednarik/Outland winner Aaron Donald, who had 10 sacks among 26.5 tackles for loss while ringing up 16 quarterback hurries, forcing four fumbles and blocking a kick.

How Bowling Green got here: By winning the MAC. No, really, this is the game that the winner of the MAC goes to. The Falcons elated Sugar Bowl executives by beating Northern Illinois in the conference's title game to remove the Huskies' hopes for a BCS berth, subtly reminding the rest of the nation that BGSU was a pretty good MAC team as well. The Falcons got thrashed at Indiana early in the season, but lost their other two defeats (at Mississippi State, vs. Toledo) by a combined four points. Matt Johnson might be one of the best quarterbacks you haven't heard much about this year; he was 217-of-337 passing for 3,195 yards, 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Falcons also have a defense that's Top 10 in almost all of the statistical categories, with the rushing defense being the closest thing they have to a weakness.

College football fans care because: One of the nation's best defensive players is going up against one of the game's more underrated quarterbacks. That should be enough.

SEC fans care because: Pitt is an ACC team, strange as that might be, which means that we get to laugh at the ACC if the Panthers lose this one.

Watch this game if ...: You don't have anything to return after Christmas.

Bottom line: Pitt might not actually be as bad as their record suggests, but Bowling Green almost certainly is not. The one wild card here is that Adam Scheier takes over to coach the Falcons after Dave Clawson went to Wake Forest, which always injects an element of uncertainty. But the Falcons are probably good enough to withstand that. Bowling Green 32, Pittsburgh 17

Line: Bowling Green by 4.5 points

*Co-written by Year2

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