LITTLE CAESARS BOWL STORYLINES
1. Bowling Green returns to Ford Field for the second time in 20 days on Dec. 26 when it faces Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The Falcons claimed their first MAC Championship in 21 years with a 47-27 victory over previously undefeated Northern Illinois, but they will make this trip to Detroit without Dave Clawson, who filled the coaching vacancy at Wake Forest after turning Bowling Green around in five seasons. Special teams coordinator Adam Scheier will serve as the interim coach.
2. For the first time since 2009, the Panthers will spend the postseason somewhere else besides Birmingham, Ala. Pittsburgh concluded each of its last three years in the BBVA Compass Bowl, defeating Kentucky at the end of the its 2010 season before ending the last two campaigns with losses to Southern Methodist and Mississippi.
3. The Falcons rank fifth in the country in scoring defense (14.8 points) and eighth in total defense (308.7 yards), but the most dominant defensive player on the field figures to be Panthers defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner and ACC Defensive Player of the Year leads the nation in tackles for loss (26.5), is tied for eighth in forced fumbles (four) and tied for 13th in sacks (10).
TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Bowling Green -6
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (6-6, 3-5 ACC): Donald, who is also a finalist for the Lombardi, Bednarik and Outland Trophies, is the first Pitt defensive player to win a national award since Hugh Green claimed the Lombardi, Maxwell and Walter Camp awards in 1980. With 77 catches for 1,001 yards, Tyler Boyd broke Larry Fitzgerald’s school record of 69 receptions by a freshman and needs only five more yards to surpass him in that category. Devin Street is the school’s all-time leading receiver and the first Panther with more than 200 career catches.
ABOUT BOWLING GREEN (10-3, 7-1 MAC): While the defense receives more credit, the offense has done its fair share during the Falcons’ five-game winning streak in which they have outscored opponents 223-44. Matt Johnson, who threw for a career-high 393 yards and broke a MAC championship record with five touchdown passes, has thrown for at least three scores four times during the winning streak. Travis Greene has rushed for over 100 yards nine times and ran for 1,575 yards this season, both of which are school records.
PREDICTION: Bowling Green 31, Pittsburgh 20