Maryland is back in the bowl season after a two-year absence while Purdue returns after a one-year hiatus that halted an 8-year bowling streak.
The Terrapins got here by the skin of their teeth, winning two games by a single point, one game by two points, one game by three points, another by four points, and one by a whopping 6-point margin. They didn't win a single game by more than 14 points, including a 13-point win over 1-AA William & Mary and a 4-point victory over winless FIU.
Still, it took a loss to Wake Forest in their final regular season game, their only home loss all year, to eliminate Maryland from the ACC Championship playoff.
The Boilermakers were just 5-4 before reeling off three straight wins over Big Ten weaklings Michigan State, Illinois and Indiana. In fact, Purdue's win over Minnesota (6-6) was its only victory over a .500 or better team all year. They finished the season with a 42-35 loss at Hawaii, a game in which they rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit only to surrender 15 unanswered points in the final 4:48 of the game.
Defense is suspect, to say the least, on both squads. Each team ranked ninth in their conference in points allowed, Maryland ranked last in the ACC in rushing defense, and Purdue ranked last in the Big Ten in pass defense and total defense.
The Boilermakers may have the advantage with their passing game. Purdue ranked first in the Big Ten in passing offense, while Maryland only picked off seven passes all year and allowed 13 TD's while giving up 192.2 yards per game.
Although Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter threw for 3,721 yards, he found the opposing team's defenders almost as often as he found his own receivers. Painter tossed 18 interceptions and 21 touchdown strikes. Four Boilermaker receivers had 577 yards or more.
By comparison, Maryland's Sam Hollenbach only threw for 2,148 yards. He also seemed unable to distinguish jersey colors at times, throwing 11 INT's and 13 TD passes.
Neither team came close to producing a 1,000-yard rusher. Lance Ball led Terrapin ball carriers with 717 yards and 8 touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry. For Purdue, Kory Sheets had 769 yards and 11 scores on 4.9 yards per carry.