ACC Bowl Bids: Duke to face A&M; Miami draws L’ville

ATLANTA — Johnny Manziel might play his final college game in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

No. 20 Texas A&M, led by the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, will face No. 22 Duke in the first-ever meeting between the schools on New Year’s Eve at the Georgia Dome, officials announced Sunday night.

Manziel is a third-year sophomore, making him eligible to enter the 2014 NFL draft. He hasn’t revealed his plans for next season after guiding Texas A&M to a disappointing 8-4 record, with all four losses coming against fellow Southeastern Conference teams ranked among the top 14 in The Associated Press poll.

Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said Manziel has yet to make a decision on turning pro.

“If he does, he does,” the coach said. “Right now, we’re looking through that and evaluating his future. Then we’ll go from there.”

Duke (10-3) was a surprising division winner in the Atlantic Coast Conference, posting the most wins ever at a school known more for basketball. The Blue Devils are eager to make up for their performance in the league championship game Saturday night, when they were routed by top-ranked Florida State 45-7.

“The invitation to the Chick-fil-A Bowl is the perfect medicine for us,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “To play a team with the reputation and history and tradition they have at Texas A&M, to play the caliber of team they have, it’s going to revive our guys quickly. It didn’t go like we wanted last night, but the nation will be watching this game, so we want to put our best foot forward.”

Manziel will clearly be the star attraction in Atlanta. While Johnny Football is not expected to repeat as the Heisman winner after becoming the first freshman to win college football’s top individual award, he put up another stellar season with 3,732 yards passing and 33 touchdowns, as well as leading the Aggies in rushing with 686 yards and eight TDs.

No. 18 Louisville, Miami in Russell Athletic Bowl

ORLANDO, Fla.
— The Russell Athletic Bowl might have sort of a Miami celebration feel to it.

After two years of self-imposed bowl exile during an NCAA investigation, Miami will play in its first game since 2010 when it meets No. 18 Louisville in the Dec. 28 matchup at Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl.

The game is also a Miami reunion for Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. A native of the South Florida city, he will be lined up against the school he grew up watching and initially committed to coming out of high school.

But most importantly, it will be a chance for Bridgewater and Louisville (11-1) to put a happy stamp on a season that fell short of the school’s second straight BCS appearance. The Cardinals, coming off a Sugar Bowl win, lost that chance after blowing a 21-point lead in their lone loss of the year to BCS-bound UCF back in October.

The setback also dealt a big blow to Bridgewater’s Heisman Trophy campaign. But with about 25 players on Louisville’s roster with Florida ties, Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said it’s nice to give them a homecoming.

“We’re always trying to raise expectations and always trying to lift the profile of Louisville,” Strong said. “With us ending the season against this opponent, it will give a lot of viewers that are watching the opportunity to see what type of team we have.”

The Hurricanes (9-3) won their first seven games of the season and rose as high as No. 7 in The Associated Press rankings before losing three in a row to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke.

Boston College faces Arizona in AdvoCare V100 Bowl

SHREVEPORT, La. — Two of the nation’s top running backs will meet Dec. 31 when Arizona faces Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl.

Boston College’s Andre Williams leads all Football Bowl Subdivision players this season with 2,102 yards rushing this season. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, the Pac-12 offensive player of the year, has rushed for 1,716 yards and ranks second nationally with 156 yards rushing per game.

Williams, Carey and Washington’s Bishop Sankey are the three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back.

“Maybe the two best backs in the country are squaring off in the same bowl game,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “It’s very compelling, and I think it will make for great theater.”

The AdvoCare V100 Bowl — formerly known as the Independence Bowl — typically matches an Atlantic Coast Conference team against a Southeastern Conference school, but the SEC didn’t have enough bowl-eligible teams to send someone to Shreveport this season. The AdvoCare 100 Bowl instead invited Arizona (7-5) from the Pac-12.

Boston College has been one of the ACC’s biggest surprises. The Eagles went from 2-10 in 2012 to 7-5 this season in the first year of Steve Addazio’s coaching tenure.

“We’re thrilled,” Addazio said in a university release. “We’re excited. The players are excited and they are all fired up. It’s an exciting time for Boston College.”

This marks only the fourth time in the 38-year history of this bowl that it has included a Pac-12 team. Washington beat Tulane 24-12 in 1987. Oregon beat Tulsa 27-24 in 1989 and lost 39-35 to Wake Forest in 1992.

Arizona’s coaching staff does have some Louisiana roots. Rodriguez was Tulane’s offensive coordinator for two years, including the Green Wave’s undefeated season in 1998. Arizona co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee is a New Orleans native.

“I’m sure we’ll see some friends and folks there and maybe have some Cajun food at the same time,” Rodriguez said. “More than anything, we’re excited to put our program out there and try to win a football game.”

This represents the first time Arizona and Boston College have faced each other.

Virginia Tech-UCLA is set for Sun Bowl on Dec. 31

EL PASO, Texas — Virginia Tech and UCLA have accepted bids to meet for the first time in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) played its first postseason game in the 1947 Sun Bowl, losing to Cincinnati. This will be the Hokies’ 21st consecutive bowl appearance under coach Frank Beamer.

No. 17 UCLA (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) will be making its fourth appearance in the Sun Bowl. The Bruins came from behind to beat Northwestern 50-38 in their last appearance in El Paso, in 2005.

The Hokies are led by Thomas Logan, who has completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,861 yards and 16 touchdowns.

UCLA’s Myles Jack is the Pac-12’s freshman of the year on both offense and defense after starring at linebacker and as a running back.

Music City Bowl pits Mississippi vs. Georgia Tech

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Mississippi Rebels will finish the season in the same place where they started back in August.

The Rebels will play Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 in a pairing announced Sunday night. Ole Miss opened the season beating Vanderbilt a couple miles from LP Field, home of the bowl game. Now the Rebels are back in this bowl for the second time.

“We have one of the great bowl traditions in all of college football, and I’m excited that we have earned a bowl berth in each of our first two seasons,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “I appreciate the unbelievable support Rebel Nation has provided our team, and I look forward to seeing a sea of Red and Blue in Nashville.”

Ole Miss (7-5) finished on a two-game skid that dropped the Rebels out of the Top 25 rankings. The Rebels played in the BBVA Compass Bowl last season.

This will be the 35th bowl appearance all-time by Ole Miss. The Rebels are 22-12, including last season when Ole Miss beat Pittsburgh 38-17 at the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., to cap Freeze’s first season.

The last time Ole Miss played in the Music City Bowl, David Cutcliffe was the coach and Eli Manning was the Rebels’ quarterback. That’s the only bowl the Rebels have lost over the past 10 bowl trips going back to the 1992 Liberty Bowl.

Ole Miss lost 49-38 to West Virginia in their first Music City Bowl. These Rebels have plenty of Tennessee connections starting at quarterback in Bo Wallace, a native of Giles County, and a running back in I’Tavius Mathers from nearby Murfreesboro.

Cincinnati will face North Carolina in Belk Bowl

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Cincinnati Bearcats will look to defend their Belk Bowl title Dec. 28 against North Carolina.

The Bearcats will be making their second straight appearance in the game after defeating Duke 48-34 last year in Charlotte, Belk Bowl officials announced Sunday night.

“We are very excited to have North Carolina playing in the 2013 Belk Bowl,” said Belk Bowl executive director Will Webb said in a release. “The Tar Heels finished the season very strong, as did Cincinnati, and it should provide a great matchup on the field.”

Cincinnati finished 9-3 overall and in second place in the American Athletic Conference at 6-2. They finished strong by winning six of their final seven games.

Bearcats head coach Tommy Tuberville said in a release “the opportunity to play another game is huge for our team, our fans and for recruiting. It’s exciting and a tribute to our great fans that the Belk Bowl has selected Cincinnati two years in a row.”

The Bearcats defeated Duke last year in the Belk Bowl behind the play of quarterback Brendon Kay, who named the game’s MVP.

The Tar Heels (6-6) bounced back from a 1-5 start this season to win five of their last six games to become bowl eligible. However, their regular season ended with a disappointing 27-25 loss to rival Duke at home.

Bowling Green, Pitt to play in Pizza Bowl

After one of the biggest wins in school history in Detroit, Bowling Green is headed back to Ford Field.

The MAC champion Falcons will face Pittsburgh of the ACC in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26.

The Falcons (10-3) beat previously undefeated Northern Illinois 47-27 in the MAC title game at Ford Field on Friday night, their fifth straight win.

It’s the third bowl bid in five seasons for Bowling Green and the 11th in school history. But it’s also the program’s first trip to the Pizza Bowl in 10 years.

“We are excited to play in a great environment like Ford Field again, so close to our campus, with our fans and students being able to make the trip,” Falcons coach Dave Clawson said.

Pitt will be making its sixth straight trip to a bowl game and will be the first ACC team to make the trip to Detroit.

The Panthers, who went 3-5 in their first season in their new league, are 2-1 against Bowling Green since 1999.

“Bowling Green was impressive not only in their MAC Championship win, but all season long and we have a competitive game of football ahead,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said.

The Falcons rank fifth in the nation in scoring defense at just 14.8 points a game, although they gave up 42 points in a loss at Indiana.

Pitt has been one of the worst teams in the country at running the ball, but Tom Savage has thrown for 2,834 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.

Syracuse, Minnesota to meet in Texas Bowl

Minnesota improved by two wins in 2013, its best regular season in a decade.

The Gophers reward? A return to the same bowl they lost in a year ago.

Minnesota will play in the Texas Bowl for the second straight time when it faces Syracuse on Dec. 27.

The Gophers (8-4) have their most wins since 2003 but wound up in Houston yet again. Minnesota blew a 10-point lead in the final 1:10 and lost to Texas Tech 34-31 in last year’s Texas Bowl.

Still, Minnesota is excited to be playing in December after many believed it would struggle to even reach bowl eligibility.

“We enjoyed our experience last year and wish we could have come away with a victory,” Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said. “I know our players, especially the 12 from Texas, welcome the opportunity to represent the University of Minnesota in a state that has great football tradition

Syracuse (6-6) finished 4-4 in its first season in the ACC and rallied past Boston College in the regular-season finale to earn bowl eligibility.

This will be the first postseason game in Texas for the Orange since they beat the Longhorns in the 1960 Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

“I couldn’t be happier for our senior class to have the opportunity to go to Texas and play a Big Ten school. One of the things I have enjoyed the most about this season is our seniors. They are tough kids who never give in,” Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said.

Minnesota is 3-1 against Syracuse, including a 17-10 win in 2012. But the Orange have won their last two postseason games, both at Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Maryland plays Marshall in Military Bowl

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland won’t have to cross the state line for its first bowl appearance since 2010.

The Terrapins (7-5) will face Marshall (9-4) in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27. The game will be held at the home stadium of the Naval Academy, which is around 28 miles from the Maryland campus.

“We get a chance to play in our state capital,” Terps coach Randy Edsall said Sunday night. “We hope we can get all our fans and people from this area to come out and support us and be part of the great game-day atmosphere that’s going to take place in Annapolis.”

Maryland finished 7-5 this season to earn its first bowl bid under Edsall, now in his third year with the Terrapins. The last time Maryland played in the postseason, it beat East Carolina when the Military Bowl was held in the nation’s capital and Ralph Friedgen was head coach.

This will be the sixth Military Bowl, the first in Annapolis.

“Being close to home, it allows us to play in front of our recruiting base,” Edsall said. “Our players’ parents and families will be able to come out in full force to watch us.”

Marshall received its invitation on Saturday. The Thundering Herd went 9-4 and won the Conference USA East Division title before falling to Rice in the league championship game.

Marshall and Maryland have never played each other in football.

“Maryland has built plenty of momentum and finished this season strong, while Marshall features a high-powered offense,” Military Bowl President & Executive Director Steve Beck said. “We’re excited about this game being one of our best ever.”

The Thundering Herd is led by quarterback Rakeem Cato, who ranks second in Conference USA in passing (275.3 yards per game) and has thrown 36 touchdown passes.

“I have great respect for the ACC and great respect for Maryland,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “Randy has done a tremendous job there. … I think our football team as a whole is excited to be able to play a team the caliber of Maryland.”