The Quick Lane Bowl is one of a few new bowl games on the slate this year, and of all the new ones, it probably has the most appeal to a casual fan, unless you really like the Bahamas. The Detroit Lions have agreed to support and sponsor the game, which is a funny story in itself.
With agreements in place to host teams from the ACC and Big Ten, we should be in for a pretty good time. In the initial year of the new tie-ins, Rutgers will take on North Carolina. It remains to be seen if anyone actually shows up to watch the game -- Detroit isn't exactly the No. 1 destination for people looking for a post-Christmas vacation -- but nonetheless it is an important football game and some folks will surely make the trip.
Here is everything you need to know before kickoff.
Date and time, ET: Friday, Dec. 26, 4:30 p.m. ET
TV channel: ESPN
Location: Detroit, Mich.
Stadium: Ford Field, 65,000
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten)
It might have been a new beginning in a new conference for Rutgers, but it felt like the same old thing. For the third year in a row under coach Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights jumped out to a hot start only to falter down the stretch. In Flood’s first season, Rutgers lost three of their final five regular season games and a Russell Athletic Bowl appearance against Virginia Tech for a disappointing 9-4 finish. Last season, Flood’s squad lost five of their last seven games before falling to Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl. This season, Rutgers started 5-1, but dropped four of five games after Oct. 4. A Thanksgiving week win over newfangled rival Maryland improved their bowl position, but three times is a trend.
Senior quarterback Gary Nova is one of the constants through this three-year stretch. Nova threw for 2,667 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But while his totals essentially match his sophomore and junior year stats, Nova was wildly inconsistent. He threw for less than 200 yards in all five Rutgers losses and more than 210 yards in six of Rutgers’ seven wins. His 347-yard, four-touchdown performance against Maryland was his first spectacular performance since early October; not coincidentally, Rutgers won. If Flood is going to get his first bowl win, it will come on the arm of Nova.
Last bowl game: 2013 Pinstripe Bowl vs. Notre Dame, 29-16 loss
All-time bowl record: 5-4
Head coach's bowl record: Kyle Flood, 0-2
North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
Year three of the Larry Fedora era at North Carolina wasn’t supposed to be a 6-6 season, but that’s what the Heels ended up with. The offense was explosive as expected, but their undoing was a complete lack of defense. The Tar Heels were 119th in the nation in both scoring defense (38.9 points/game) and total defense (495.7 yards/game).
The centerpiece of the offense is quarterback Marquise Williams, who completed over 62 percent of his passes while throwing and rushing for a combined 32 touchdowns. As he goes, the offense goes.
Last bowl game: 2013 Belk Bowl vs. Cincinnati, 39-17 win
All-time bowl record: 14-16
Head coach's bowl record: Larry Fedora, 3-2