Maryland and East Carolina are slated to face-off in the newly-named Military Bowl, previously known as the EagleBank Bowl, at RFK Stadium in our nation's capital.
It is quite an accomplishment for first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill who guided the Pirates to a 6-6 record behind an explosive offense that ranks 7th in passing and 23rd overall. The former Texas Tech assistant was the interim head coach in last year's Texas Tech victory over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl, but was cast aside when Tommy Tuberville was named as the new head coach of the Red Raiders.
Maryland's 8-4 campaign was nearly enough to land a spot opposite Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game and, at the least, a job-saving performance for ACC Head Coach Of the Year, Ralph Friedgen. Alas, that is not the case as Friedgen has been notified that he will not return as head coach next season, making this his final game in charge of the Terps' football team.
Maryland had a coach-in-waiting in James Franklin, but he accepted the head position at Vanderbilt before Maryland opted to dump Friedgen. At the time of this writing, the Terrapin supporters and returning players are in limbo as to who the next head coach will be. Ironically, Ruffin McNeill's former employer, Mike Leach, is rumored to be the primary choice.
Maryland was forecasted by the computer (Congrove Computer Rankings, a.k.a. CCR Top 120) to go 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the ACC. But the Terps jumped out to a 6-2 start before splitting their final four games. A home loss to Florida State on the next-to-last weekend of the regular season kicked Maryland out of the competition for the ACC Atlantic division title, but it still managed to regroup to beat N.C. State the following week and prevent the Wolfpack from clinching an ACC Championship game berth.
The future seems bright for whomever takes the reins of the Maryland program which features an offense led by freshman QB Danny O'Brien. He took the job as fulltime starter for the FIU game in week 4 and finished the season with a 56.8% completion percentage and 135.21 passer rating while winning 6 of the 9 games he started. For those accomplishments, O'Brien was named ACC Freshman Of the Year.
Still, Maryland finished the season ranked just 9th in the ACC in total offense. And though the defense improved from next-to-last a year ago, it was still only the conference's 8th-ranked unit in 2010.
The computer's preseason forecast nailed East Carolina's 6-6 overall record, but the Pirates could have easily turned in a better mark. They won 5 of their first 7 games before spiraling into a 1-4 finish that included an embarrassing 76-35 loss at home to Navy in which the Midshipmen scored 48 second-half points.
Obviously, defense was a big problem for East Carolina as it comes to the Military Bowl with the nation's worst defense. The Pirates are ranked 120th out of 120 teams in total "d", 108th against the pass and 115th against the run. They were also 118th in scoring defense, allowing 43.9 points per game. Three of East Carolina's games reached combined point totals of 100 or more and four others topped 80.
Still, East Carolina managed to go 1-1 against ACC teams, losing rather handily to Virginia Tech and North Carolina, but upsetting North Carolina State 33-27 in overtime.
East Carolina is 5-6 all-time in bowl games, but just 1-4 in its last five.
Maryland is 10-11-2, including a 4-1 record in its last five bowl appearances.
This is the first-ever meeting the two teams.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. It will kick-off a trio of games on ESPN on Wednesday, December 29.