The Bowl season continues with three more games for Thursday. In early action, Syracuse is taking on Kansas State at Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl. If that doesn't get you excited - me neither - there are a couple of games later this evening that should keep you entertained.
First off, Tennessee plays what is essentially a home game against North Carolina in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. For the Tar Heels it is a last chance to salvage what was supposed to be a strong season. That all changed after the 'Heels started 0-2, then were buried behind a slew of NCAA sanctions for player involvement with agents.
The NCAA's evaluation dragged well into the second month of the season and weighed heavily on the Tar Heels, who eventually saw the dismissal of senior defensive tackle and All-American candidate Marvin Austin and were handed permanent ineligibility rulings on top returning wideout senior Greg Little as well as first-team preseason All-American defensive end Robert Quinn and senior starting cornerback Charles Brown. UNC persevered under head coach Butch Davis to gain a bowl bid for the third straight year, managing to climb to 6-3 after a 37-35 win over then No. 24 Florida State on November 6th before dropping two of its last three to end at 7-5 and 4-4 in the ACC.
The Tar Heels are 12-16 all-time in bowl games with losses in each of their last three postseason appearances. UNC took part in the Meineke Car Care Bowl the last two years and suffered successive losses to West Virginia and Pittsburgh, in that order. The program's last bowl win came in 2001 -- a 16-10 triumph over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
"I congratulate our team, and especially the 17 seniors, for the extraordinary job they've done in leading our program to a third consecutive bowl appearance," said Davis. "Regardless of the situation, this team fought week after week to make our fans proud. We look forward to representing North Carolina against a talented Tennessee team."
Tennessee came on strong to win its last four games and become bowl eligible at 6-6 with a 3-5 ledger in SEC play. The season was Derek Dooley's first as head coach after Lane Kiffin up and bolted after one year at the helm for the open position as head man at Southern California. Dooley has the historic UT program back in the postseason for a second consecutive year coming off a 37-14 loss to Virginia Tech under Kiffin in the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Tennessee is 25-23 all-time in postseason play and making its 49th bowl appearance, which is tied for second in NCAA history alongside Texas. The Vols have alternated wins and losses in their last five trips to the postseason. Their last victory was a New Year's Day triumph in 2008 against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
This will be the first meeting between the two programs since 1961 when UNC logged a 22-21 win. The Volunteers lead the overall series, 20-10-1. The two sides have never met in a bowl game or previously participated in the Music City Bowl, which is in its 13th year of existence.
Later tonight, the (17)Nebraska Cornhuskers take on the Washington Huskies in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Huskies played the 'Huskers earlier this season with Nebraska coming out with a 56-21 win at UW.
The Cornhuskers rode a 6-2 conference record to a second straight Big 12 North title, but blew a 17-0 lead en route to a 23-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game on Dec. 4th. They finished the regular season with a 10-3 overall record.
This will be Nebraska's second consecutive appearance in the Holiday Bowl, after a 33-0 trouncing of Arizona in 2009's edition. The Cornhuskers currently hold a 24-22 all-time bowl game record, with this being their 47th bowl game appearance
Washington enters the Holiday Bowl in the midst of a three-game win streak. The Huskies defeated UCLA, Cal and Washington State to salvage a deteriorating regular season and secure their first bowl appearance since the 2002 Sun Bowl. They closed the 2010 campaign 6-6 overall and tied for third in the Pac-10 with USC, at 5-4.
Thursday's game against Nebraska will mark Washington's fourth appearance in the Holiday Bowl, were the Huskies previously faced Big 12 opponents Colorado, Kansas State and Texas. This will be Washington's 31st bowl game appearance, dating back to 1924. The team posts a 15-14-1 all-time record in such games.