Former C-USA foes Southern Miss and Louisville will square off in the newly-renamed Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, formerly known simply as the St. Petersburg Bowl. The game will take place at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Eagles and Cardinals met several times as independent programs prior to competing against each other on an annual basis as conference opponents from 1997-2002. Though both schools were still members of C-USA in '03 and '04, the schedule was absence of an Eagles-Cards encounter. Louisville left to join the Big East in 2005. Their rivalry was finally renewed in the 2009 season with homestanding Cards prevailing 25-23.
Southern Miss leads the series 18-9-1 overall, but Louisville has won the last four meetings.
The Eagles bring a high-powered offense that Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl Executive Director Brett Dulaney says "can stack up the yards and light up the scoreboard. Coach Larry Fedora and his staff have their team on a roll with at least 40 points in seven of their final eight games.".
Southern Miss (8-4, 5-3) also put at least 50 points on the board in each of its final two games. The Golden Eagles averaged 458 yards per game and 37.6 points in the regular season.
Under first year under coach Charlie Strong, the Cardinals improved from 4-8 a year ago to 6-6 overall this season and 3-4 in the Big East. This bowl appearances is Louisville's first since its 2006 season Orange Bowl win over Wake Forest.
Louisville has allowed just over 18 points per game and has two shutouts this season against Memphis and Fiesta Bowl-bound UConn. The offense is also impressive with running back Bilal Powell rushing for over 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns, and five solid receivers who have a combined 140 catches and 17 touchdowns.
The coaching matchup between Strong and Larry Fedora of Southern Miss provides an additional storyline in that Strong is a former defensive coordinator for the University of Florida, while Fedora was once the offensive coordinator for the Gators, although they were not in Gainesville at the same time.
CollegeFootballPoll.com's preseason forecast, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings, tabbed Louisville to finish 2-10, but nailed Southern Miss' record. It projects the Golden Eagles as a 1.28-point pick in this game.
In last season's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg, Big East representative Rutgers defeated UCF of Conference USA 45-24 in front of a crowd of 28,000. In the inaugural game in 2008, Tampa's local USF team (Big East) thumped Memphis (C-USA) 41-14.
This year's game will air on ESPN on Tuesday, December 21 at 8 p.m. ET.