Louisville started the season 2-4 before turning the season around and winning five of its last six games. The turnaround came as freshman Teddy Bridgewater settled in at quarterback, and the offense scored at least 27 points or more in four of the final five contests. Bridgewater ended the campaign with 12 TDs and nine interceptions while setting a school record for passing yards by a freshman with 1,855 yards while adding 95 yards and three scores 95 yards on the ground.
The Cardinals have used three running backs this year for a total of 1297 yards and eight TDs. Dominique Brown (131 attempts, 482 yards) and Victor Anderson (99 attempts 478 yards) have gotten the bulk of the yardage and scores, but Jeremy Wright (72 attempts, 337 yards) is the only back with over 100 yards in a game – gaining 108 yards against Rutgers. LB Dexter Heyman anchored the Cardinals defense, leading the team with 83 total tackles (52 solo), 15.5 TFL, and three picks. Second year head coach Charlie Strong’s defensive mind and solid recruiting have led Louisville to the 14th ranked scoring defense in the FBS, holding opponents to 19.2 points per game. The rushing defensive is ranked tenth allowing 103.50 ypg, and the Cardinals are 23rd in total defense with 327.8 ypg.
North Carolina State also closed the season strong, winning five of their final seven sending the Wolfpack to their third bowl appearance in five seasons under head coach Tom O’Brien. NC State is looking to win their second straight after a 23-7 victory over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl last year.
The Wolfpack finished fourth in the Atlantic Division of the ACC, but routed eventual conference champion Clemson and recorded the largest comeback in school history after rallying from 27 down to defeat Maryland in the final two games of the regular season. After Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, Mike Glennon stepped in as the starting quarterback and has 2790 yards with 28 TDs and 11 INTs.
In the finale against the Terps, Glennon threw five touchdown passes and ran for a sixth in the 56-41 victory. So far this season, six Wolfpack players had at least 25 receptions and six others recorded a touchdown. T.J. Graham led all receivers with 39 catches, 641 yards and five touchdowns, and junior running back James Washington anchored the ground game with 852 yards and seven scores while adding 39 receptions for 300 yards. NC State led all FBS teams with 24 interceptions, including a school-record and national-best 11 by CB David Amerson. The 6-foot-3 sophomore also had 54 total tackles (37 solo), was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, and won the Jack Tatum Award given annually to the top defensive back.