Detroit, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of middle-of-the-pack power five conference teams meet up at Ford Field for the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl when the Big Ten's Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the ACC's North Carolina Tar Heels.
Rutgers, in its first season in the Big Ten, went 7-5 overall and 3-5 in conference play. While the transition from the American Athletic Conference was a little rough for the Scarlet Knights, it didn't stop them from earning their ninth bowl appearance in 10 years, thanks in part to four non-conference wins.
"I like the idea of playing another 'power five opponent,'" said Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. "I like the idea of playing another power five school. I love the opportunity to play at a great stadium; and to play at Ford Field in a controlled environment, it's a great stadium. I think all those things enhance the Bowl experience."
Flood is the first coach in school history to lead Rutgers to a bowl game in each of his first three seasons, while the 2014 senior class is appearing in a bowl for the fourth consecutive season. The only other senior classes in school history to play in four straight bowls were members of the 2008 and 2009 senior classes.
The Scarlet Knight won two of their last three games to end a three-game losing streak and earn a spot in a bowl. In their season finale, Gary Nova completed 28-of-42 passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns, as Rutgers came from behind to defeat Maryland, 41-38.
Nova, Rutgers' team MVP, completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,667 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season. He leads an offense that averages 25.6 points per game.
Nova's favorite target is Leonte Carroo, who has a team-best 53 catches for 1,043 yards with 10 touchdowns.
Caroo, a First Team selection, led a group of four Rutgers players to earn all-conference honors. Defensive linemen Darius Hamilton and Kemoko Turay, and offensive lineman Kaleb Johnson were also named all-conference.
Hamilton and Turay combined to have 12.5 sacks for a Rutgers defense that yielded 30.9 points per game this season and allowed 439.5 yards of offense.
North Carolina, the third place finisher in the ACC's Coastal Division, went 6-6 overall this season and 4-4 in conference play.
The offensive output of the Tar Heels should be tough for the Scarlet Knights to contain. North Carolina finished third in the ACC, averaging 34.3 point per game, and are led by second-team All-ACC quarterback Marquise Williams.
The Charlotte, N.C., native leads the team in both passing (2,870) and rushing yards (737). This year, he set UNC single-season record for total offense (3,607), most touchdowns responsible for (32) and most touchdowns rushing by a quarterback (12).
Williams, however, is coming off a sub-par performance in the Tar Heels' regular-season finale against NC State. Williams and fellow QB Mitch Trubisky combined to hit on 17-of-35 passes for 177 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and four sacks in a 35-7 setback.
On the defensive side, the Tar Heels fired defensive coordinator Vic Koenning after the regular season and Dan Disch will now get a shot to lead a unit that allowed 38.9 points per game and yielded 495.7 yards per game.
"He's very energetic. He's a little out there, but it's something we need," linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said of Disch. "He's more aggressive."
Aggressiveness might play into Carolina's favor against the pro-style offense that Rutgers runs with Nova, a prototypical pocket-passer who doesn't have much mobility.
The Scarlet Knights are 5-4 all-time in bowl games after last season's 29-16 loss in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
For Carolina, this will be Fedora's sixth bowl appearance as a head coach. Last year, he guided the Tar Heels to a 39-17 victory over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. The Quick Lane Bowl is Carolina's 31st all-time bowl game, but first in the state of Michigan. Carolina has won two of its last three bowl games.
Rutgers and North Carolina have met six times in series history - the last time at North Carolina in 2011 (24-22 UNC victory). It marks the first time the two schools have met in a bowl and it will be Rutgers' third bowl versus an ACC opponent (2012 Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Virginia Tech; 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl vs. NC State).