Two teams with a total of nine bowl visits between them clash in what could be called the "Great White North" bowl when the Big East's Cincinnati Bearcats clash with the MAC's Western Michigan Broncos in Toronto.
The game will be staged at the Rogers Centre, a multi-use facility that hosts Major league baseball's Blue Jays and the Canadian Football League's Argonauts with tickets selling for as little as $15.
Western Michigan was projected to go 4-8 this season while Cincinnati was a 2-10 prospect. Obviously, both teams far exceeded those expectations. Cincinnati even toppled then-undefeated Rutgers 30-11 on November 18 for what was easily their biggest win of the year.
After a 1-3 start, Cincinnati went 6-2 in their last eight games and also defeated South Florida 23-6 in what was their only other victory over a team with a winning record.
The Broncos beat Northern Illinois for their only win over a bowl team, or a school with a winning record. But they did defeat Virginia in Charlottesville, and came within eight points of toppling Florida State in Tallahassee.
Western Michigan, however, barely squeaked past two of the MAC's weakest teams - Eastern Michigan and Miami - with 3-point victories. A win over Akron in the season finale prevented them from missing the bowl season altogether.
Cincinnati was far more impressive, taking a 13-12 lead into the fourth quarter at Virginia Tech before ultimately falling 29-13, and they only lost at Louisville by a touchdown.
Cincinnati's success also cost the school its head coach when Mark Dantonio became a hot prospect and left to take fill the Michigan State opening. So the Bearcats will be led by new head coach Brian Kelly whose Central Michigan club won the MAC and plays Middle Tennessee in the Motor City Bowl under interim head coach Jeff Quinn, Kelly's associate head coach.
Dantonio brought a fiercely competitive defense to Cincinnati and it will be interesting to see how that defense responds without him on the sidelines. The Bearcats allowed just 19.3 points per game, but only scored an average of 20.6.
The Cincinnati passing game produced as many interceptions as touchdowns (15 each) and the running game averaged only 134.3 yards while tallying a paltry 11 scores.
Sophomore quarterback Dustin Grutza started most of the season but threw 13 picks and just 9 TD's. It was senior Nick Davila that led the Bearcats past Rutgers, and he relieved Grutza in the season finale against UConn after Grutza left with a back injury in the second quarter. Davila tossed 6 scoring strikes, including 2 in a loss at West Virginia. He had just 1 pass intercepted in 83 passing attempts.
Receivers Derrick Stewart (32 catches), Brent Celek (31) and Dominick Goodman (33) all caught between 31 and 33 passes.
Greg Moore was Cincinnati's leading ground-gainer with 652 yards on 152 attempts. Butler Benton saw regular duty with 108 carries for 435 yards. Bradley Glatthaar saw action in every game and added 271 yards on 90 carries. All three running backs are juniors.
Western Michigan's offense was a middle-of-the-pack team in the MAC in all phases, but produced jut 9 rushing touchdowns to 18 through the air.
Leading the running game, Mark Bonds managed 1,082 yards and 7 scores. Freshman Brandon West had 524 rushing yards and the teams' other 2 ground attack touchdowns.
The Broncos are quarterbacked by Ryan Cubit, the son of head coach Bill Cubit. The three-year starter passed for 1,954 yards, 15 TD's and 11 INT's on 62.4 percent completions. But Cubit missed early-season games against Toledo and Virginia after injuring his throwing hand against Indiana in the opener. The Broncos still won without him as junior college transfer backup, Thomas Peregrin, handled signal-calling duties. Peregrin completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns with no
It's the defense that could keep Western Michigan in the game and, perhaps, spearhead an upset. The Broncos ranked 5th nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 863 yards on 346 attempts, but they surrendered a more statistically modest 11 touchdowns.
By forcing the opposition to throw, WMU defended an equal number of passes with far less success. The Broncos gave up nearly 200 yards passing per game.