DETROIT - With the NFL's Lions taking over Detroit's bowl game, the city was able to upgrade its conference matchup, going from a top Mid-American Conference team and an at-large berth to a Big Ten vs. Atlantic Coast Conference pairing.
Newcomer Rutgers is representing the Big Ten Conference in the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl on Friday against one of the ACC's anchor schools, North Carolina.
It's a series that spans three centuries: The schools met for the first time in 1894, several years before the Tar Heels had an official football program. The Scarlet Knights won that first game, 5-0. They played again in 1919, then took an 87-year hiatus before facing off four times in the last nine regular seasons. This is their first matchup in a bowl.
The Tar Heels have won the last three to even the series at three apiece.
Rutgers must try to find a way to stop North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams, who threw for 2,870 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, while running for 737 yards and 12 more TDs.
"He's a unique player to defend, because he has the entire skill set of a tailback but he can also do a fine job throwing the ball," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said.
For the Scarlet Knights, Gary Nova is more of a traditional drop-back passer, throwing for 2,667 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"We have to get pressure on him," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "If we give that young man time, he will pick us apart. He's very accurate."
Ford Field has hosted a post-Christmas bowl for most of its 14-year existence, but the Motor City Bowl (later the Little Caesars Bowl) was run by an outside group that merely rented the stadium for the game. Starting this year, the Lions are just the second NFL team to run a bowl game, joining the Houston Texans (Texas Bowl).
Rutgers vs. North Carolina
What: Inaugural Quick Lane Bowl.
When: Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Ford Field, Detroit.
Records: Rutgers (7-5); North Carolina (6-6).
Line: North Carolina by 3.
Series record: 3-3.
Outlook: Rutgers' biggest weapon is wide receiver Leonte Carroo (53 catches, 1,043 yards, 10 TDs). . . . Quarterback Gary Nova has led Rutgers to seven come-from-behind wins in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career. . . . QB Marquise Williams leads North Carolina in passing and rushing. He has thrown for 20 touchdowns, run for 12, and caught a TD pass. . . . Kyle Flood is the first coach in Rutgers history to lead the Scarlet Knights to a bowl in each of his first three seasons. . . . Rutgers trailed at some point in six of its seven victories this season. - Associated Press