The New Orleans Bowl returns to the Louisiana Superdome and becomes the first bowl game played there since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city on Labor Day weekend in 2005. Last season's game was played at Cajun Field on the campus of Louisiana-Lafayette.
This game pits the champions of the Sun Belt against a CUSA team. This year, it features two teams that came on strong at the end of the year.
Troy became co-champs of the Sun Belt by recovering from a 1-4 start with victories in 6 of its last 7 games. Rice is on a 6-game winning streak after starting the season 1-5.
To say that Rice has had a remarkable turnaround under first-year head coach Todd Graham would be, perhaps, the biggest understatement of the year. From September 25, 2004 through September 23, 2006, the Owls went 2-22. But since losing to Florida State on September
23, Rice has gone 7-1 with two wins over bowl-bound conference foes Tulsa and East Carolina.
The Trojans were toughened by an opening schedule that featured three consecutive road trips to Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Nebraska. Troy even held the lead late in their game against FSU before falling by 7 points. They lost to Georgia Tech by 15 before getting blown out at Nebraska.
Troy's biggest win of the year came at Middle Tennessee when they eked past the Blue Raiders 21-20 in their next-to-last game of the year. Trailing 20-7, the Trojans scored a touchdown, recovered the onside kick and scored again, all in the final 2:19 of the game. That victory is ultimately what put Troy in this game as both teams - the Trojans and Blue Raiders - finished 6-1 in conference play.
Troy didn't become a 1-A football program until 2001 and joined the Sun Belt in 2004. The Trojans made their first, and only, bowl appearance in the now-defunct Silicon Valley Classic in 2004 where they lost to Northern Illinois.
Rice is going bowling for the first time since 1961 and is looking for its first bowl victory since the 1953 Cotton Bowl.