Apparently, Troy only likes to go bowling in even years. The Trojans' only appearances in the postseason have come in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Troy had its chance to get here last year, but lost at home to FAU in the final game of the season and wound up sitting at home with the conference's best overall record at 8-4. FAU played in this game with a 7-5 record.
The Sun Belt has improved significantly since its' first season as a FBS conference. Its representative in the inaugural New Orleans Bowl in 2001 was a 5-6 North Texas team while the conference's only team with a winning record - Middle Tennessee (8-3) - went unrewarded because of a lone conference loss to the Mean Green.
In each of the last three seasons, three Sun Belt teams have posted records of .500 or better. This year, four teams did so (Troy, Arkansas State, FAU and Louisiana-Lafayette), but only Troy and FAU (Motor City Bowl) received bowl bids.
The Sun Belt is 3-4 in the New Orleans Bowl with victories by Troy and FAU in the last two games.
This game has been good to Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are making their third appearance and emerged victorious in previous efforts in 2004 and 2005.
Under first-year head coach Larry Fedora, Southern Miss just did manage to extend its streak of consecutive bowl appearances to seven. The Golden Eagles have stayed home for the holidays only once (2001) in the past 12 years.
Troy led the Sun Belt this year in scoring offense, and was 2nd in total offense. The Trojans also topped the league in scoring defense and total defense. They outscored their opponents by an average of 33.3 to 20.6, and rolled title contenders Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette by a combined 83-12 in their final two games.
Southern Miss also finished strong with victories in its last four games to reach the .500 milestone and become bowl eligible. Included in that string was a 21-3 home win over eventual CUSA champion East Carolina. Along the way, Southern Miss lost three games in which it posted 30 points or more on offense.
The game will be televised on ESPN on Sunday, December 21 at 8:15 eastern.