Cincinnati, the co-champions of the Big East Conference, will square off against Vanderbilt from the SEC in the 53rd annual Liberty Bowl on New Year's Eve afternoon in Memphis.
Both teams outperformed most expectations this season. It's the first bowl for the Commodores (6-6) since their triumphant 2008 appearance in the Music City Bowl that delivered their first bowl victory in 53 years. Cincinnati has already improved by 5 wins over last year's 4-8 season and tied West Virginia and Louisville for the Big East crown.
Neither team has ever played in the Liberty Bowl and both have relatively light bowl resumes. Vanderbilt is just 2-1-1 all-time in bowl games and is making only its second postseason appearance in the last 29 years. Cincinnati is 5-6 in bowl games with all but two of its 11 appearances coming since 1997.
This will be the eighth meeting the two schools with the last coming in 1994. Vanderbilt won four of the previous seven confrontations.
Cincinnati has either won or tied for the Big East title in three of the last four years. The nation's sack leaders with 44 boast an attacking defense that has held six opponents to 16 or fewer points.
Vanderbilt features Jordan Ridgers at quarterback, brother of Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. His season numbers don't sparkle with barely over 50% completions and a 9-9 touchdown to interception ratio, but he has thrown more TD"s than picks in the last five games while tossing 7 TD passes and 4 INT's.
Regardless of the unspectacular numbers, Vandy's offense is vastly improved over recent seasons. The Commodores rank 7th in total offense in the SEC after ranking last or next-to-last in each of the previous four seasons.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati gets Zach Collaros back at quarterback after he suffered a broken ankle in the November 12 loss at West Virginia. Collaros completed 63.4% of his passes during the regular season and threw 14 TD passes and 8 INT's, but he added 8 rushing touchdowns.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com gives Cincinnati the edge by 3.92 points.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC with a 3:30 p.m. EST kickoff.