Meineke Car Care Bowl
North Carolina St. (6-5) vs. South Florida (6-5)
Time/site/TV: 8 a.m.; Charlotte, N.C.; ESPN2.
Line: N.C. State by 4.
Payout per team: $750,000.
Bowl records: N.C. State 11-10-1, South Florida first appearance.
Series: First meeting.
Analysis: The Bulls’ late fade landed them in the Wolfpack’s backyard for their first bowl. But you won’t hear USF fans complaining too much. N.C. State had to muster a win over Maryland to qualify and needs a bowl win to regain the program’s luster. When South Florida was successful this year, it relied on strong defense and RB Andre Hall. The Wolfpack defense, led by DEs Mario Williams and Manny Lawson, will keep Hall under wraps if QB Pat Julmiste doesn’t contribute something through the air as well. N.C. State’s offense isn’t scary, but the Wolfpack is 4-1 since Marcus Stone took over at QB. He must get speedy WR Tramain Hall involved to create room for RB Andre Brown.
Tulsa (8-4) vs. Fresno St. (8-4)
Time/site/TV: 10 a.m.; Memphis, Tenn.; ESPN.
Line: Fresno State by 7.
Payout per team: $1.5 million.
Bowl records: Tulsa 4-8, Fresno State 9-6.
Series: Fresno State leads 4-0.
Analysis: These teams used to play each other in the Western Athletic Conference. Tulsa, the Conference USA champion in its debut season, seeks its first win over the Bulldogs and its first bowl win since 1991. Liberty Bowl officials anticipated matching conference champions again when they extended the invitation to Fresno State following its strong effort against No. 1 USC, but the Bulldogs squandered a share of the WAC crown with two conference losses. To regain some credibility, they will need a fast start from QB Paul Pinegar and RB Wendell Mathis. The Bulldogs gave the ball away 12 times during their closing three-game losing skid, and Tulsa LB Nelson Coleman and CB Nick Graham will be ready to make them pay for any further miscues.
No. 14 Texas Christian (10-1) vs. Iowa St. (7-4)
Time/site/TV: 11:30 a.m., Houston, ESPN2.
Line: TCU by 3.
Payout per team: $1.2 million.
Bowl records: TCU 7-13-1, Iowa State 2-6.
Series: TCU leads 2-0.
Analysis: Despite being minutes away from playing for the Big 12 title, Iowa State can erase the memory of a disappointing finish by winning back-to-back bowl games for the first time. But Texas Christian, which swept the Mountain West in its first year in the conference, poses a significant challenge. Cyclones QB Bret Meyer has big-play threats around him, including WR Todd Blythe and QB-turned-WR Austin Flynn. TCU CBs Quincy Butler and Drew Coleman take away a lot of deep balls.
Gannett News Service