Charlotte, N.C. – After a six-year run as the Meineke Car Care Bowl (2005-2010) this postseason game in the Queen City becomes the Belk Bowl. The move was precipitated by Meineke's decision to switch its sponsorship to the Texas Bowl and Charlotte-based Belk department stores became the title sponsor of this game. It began as the Continental Tire Bowl from 2002-2004.
A team from either the state of Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina has appeared in 8 of the 9 previous games and that regional support has helped make it one of the best-attended "secondary" bowls. It has averaged almost 60,000 fans each year with three sellouts.
An ACC team has appeared every year and a Big East team has been invited in all but the 2006 season when Navy played and lost to Boston College 25-24. ACC teams are 5-4 in the nine previous Belk Bowls while Big East teams are 4-4 and independents are 0-1.
This year's game again matches teams from the ACC and Big East as N.C. State takes on Louisville.
Louisville will be making its first appearance in the game, while N.C. State makes its second appearance overall, and first since 2005 when the Wolfpack defeated USF 14-0.
Both teams needed dramatic season turnarounds to get here. The Wolfpack finished 7-5 after a 2-3 opening in which both wins came against FCS schools. Louisville also finished 7-5, but was just 2-4 before winning 5 of its last 6 to capture a share of the Big East title.
2011 Belk Bowl Executive Director Will Webb said, "Louisville has played very well this season. Every game has been very competitive, with no loss by more than nine points. And NC State has shown great resiliency, winning three of their last four games to become bowl eligible, including a win over the ACC Champions Clemson."
N.C. State finished the season with a 7-5 overall record and 4-4 in the ACC, taking fourth-place in the Atlantic division. Against Maryland, in their last regular season game, the Wolfpack overcame a 27-point deficit in the second half with 42 unanswered points to secure the win and a bowl berth.
Kickoff for the 2011 Belk Bowl is Tuesday, December 27 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN from Bank Of America Stadium.
The Congrove Computer Rankings project N.C. State to win by just 1.36 points as it expects this to be the 6th-most closely contested matchup of the 35 bowl games.