Today's bowl capsules

Photo by Jeff Siner

Photo by Jeff Siner

Meineke Bowl

Line: Pittsburgh by 2

Series record: North Carolina leads 4-2

Last meeting: Nov. 4, 2000, North Carolina 20-17

What's at Stake

After a heartbreaking loss to Cincinnati cost Pittsburgh a BCS bid, the Panthers face North Carolina in its backyard seeking to win 10 games for the first time since they went 11-1 behind Dan Marino in 1981. A loss to North Carolina State in their final game put the Tar Heels in Charlotte for a second straight season and produces a matchup of coaching friends. Pitt's Dave Wannstedt and North Carolina's Butch Davis worked on the same staffs at Oklahoma State, Miami and the Dallas Cowboys, winning a national title and Super Bowl.

Key Matchup

Pitt RB Dion Lewis vs. North Carolina defense. Lewis, a true freshman and the Big East offensive player of the year, has rushed for 1,640 yards and 16 touchdowns. He'll face a unit that ranks sixth in the country in total defense, ninth in run defense and third with 101 tackles for a loss.

Players to Watch

Pittsburgh: WR Jonathan Baldwin. With 1,080 yards receiving, Baldwin will get a stiff test against North Carolina CB Kendric Burney, who has returned two of his five interceptions for touchdowns. With the Tar Heels likely having to load the box to defend Lewis, there could be several 1-on-1 matchups downfield.

North Carolina: TB Ryan Houston. Taking over in the backfield in the ninth game when Shaun Draughn broke his right shoulder, Houston has come on strong. He has 630 yards rushing and the Tar Heels will want time-consuming run-dominated drives to slow down Pitt's high-powered offense.

Facts & Figures: North Carolina is in consecutive bowls for the first time since seven straight from 1992-98. ... Tar Heels S Deunta Williams has six of the team's 21 interceptions. ... Pitt DE Greg Romeus has eight of Pitt's 44 sacks. The Panthers lead the nation with 3.67 sacks a game. ... Panthers LB Max Gruder, second on the team in tackles, grew up in Charlotte. ... Pitt played in the Charlotte bowl once before, losing to Virginia 23-16 in 2003.


Emerald Bowl

Boston College (8-4) vs. Southern California (8-4), 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: USC by 7 .

Series Record: USC leads 2-0.

Last meeting: 1988, USC 34-7.

What's at Stake

The Trojans try to put a positive finish on a disappointing season. The Eagles look to get back on the winning track in bowl games after having their eight-game bowl winning streak snapped last season by Vanderbilt.

Key Matchup

BC RB Montel Harris against USC run defense. The Trojans struggled late in the season against the run, giving up 202.6 yards rushing per game over the last five. Harris has rushed for 1,355 yards this season, sixth most all-time at BC, averaging 143.8 yards over his last six games.

Players to Watch

Boston College: QB Dave Shinskie. The former baseball player has thrown for 1,831 yards and 14 TDs this season, setting school records for a freshman. The 25-year-old Shinskie isn't a typical freshman, having spent six years in the Minnesota Twins farm system.

USC: RB Allen Bradford. With starter Joe McKnight's status uncertain because of an investigation into whether he improperly used a car, Bradford will have to shoulder the bulk of the rushing load for the Trojans. Bradford ran for 596 yards and eight scores this season.

Facts & Figures

The teams haven't played in 21 years but do have a home-and-home series lined up for 2013-14, starting in Los Angeles. ... Boston College is the first team to make a return visit to this bowl, beating Colorado State 35-21 in 2003. ... First-year coach Frank Spaziani is coaching in his second bowl game, serving as the interim coach in 2006 when BC beat Navy 25-24 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl after Tom O'Brien left to coach North Carolina State. ... Eagles WR Rich Gunnell needs 60 yards receiving to break Pete Mitchell's career record of 2,388 yards. ... This marks the first time since the 2005 Orange Bowl that USC has left home to play in a bowl game. The Trojans had played in the Rose Bowl for the past four seasons. ... USC will be playing as an unranked team for the first time since Pete Carroll's first season as coach in 2001. ... The Trojans have won 31 of their last 32 nonconference games with the only loss coming in the Rose Bowl against Texas four years ago. ... USC's 31 bowl victories are tied with Alabama for the most all-time.


Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl

Ohio (9-4) vs. Marshall (6-6), 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Ohio by 3

Series record: Ohio leads 29-17-6

Last meeting: Oct. 9, 2004, Marshall 16-13

What's at Stake

Marshall and Ohio were planning to revive their 104-year "Battle For the Bell" rivalry in 2010 with a series of six games, but they will get an early start with a matchup in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. The schools -- located 82 miles apart -- haven't played since Marshall left the Mid-American Conference in 2005.

Key Matchup

Marshall QB Brian Anderson vs. Ohio's defense. The Bobcats led the nation by forcing 36 turnovers -- 20 interceptions and 16 fumbles. Anderson threw 10 interceptions in the Thundering Herd's first 11 games, but had three in a 52-21 loss to UTEP in the regular-season finale.

Players to Watch

Ohio: LB Noah Keller. The leader of Ohio's ball-hawking defense, Keller led the MAC with 138 tackles after accumulating 104 last season as a sophomore. He has 8 1/2 tackles for losses, two sacks and an interception in 13 games.

Marshall: RB Darius Marshall. Marshall became even more of a focal point for Marshall's offense when star TE Cody Slate sustained a season-ending knee injury. Marshall finished with 1,054 yards rushing despite missing the final two regular-season games because of a knee injury, but he is expected to play against Ohio.

Facts & Figures: Marshall played in the first four editions of the bowl between 1997-2000, when it was called the Motor City Bowl and played at the Pontiac Silverdome. In their last appearance, the Thundering Herd beat Cincinnati, coached by Rick Minter, who is now the interim coach for Marshall. Minter also coached Cincinnati in the 2001 Motor City Bowl, losing to Toledo. ... Minter replaced Mark Snyder, who resigned at the end of the regular season. John "Doc" Holliday, an assistant to Urban Meyer on Florida's 2006 national championship team, was named to the full-time job and will take over after the bowl. ... Ohio and head coach Frank Solich are 0-2 at Ford Field, having lost both the 2006 and 2009 MAC championship games to Central Michigan. Before Solich took over the program in 2005, Ohio hadn't played in a bowl game since 1968.