* Who: North Texas vs. Cincinnati.
* Where: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans.
* Time, TV: 7 p.m., ESPN2.
* Records: North Texas 7-5, 6-0 Sun Belt; Cincinnati 7-6, 6-2 Conference USA.
* Coaches: North Texas, Darrell Dickey; Cincinnati, Rick Minter.
* Payout: $750,000 per team.
* Bowl History: North Texas has never won a bowl game in three chances, the last being this game a year ago (a 45-20 loss to Colorado State). Cincinnati is 2-3 in bowls, last winning the Humanitarian Bowl in 1997.
It's awfully nice of North Texas to at least have a winning record this season. Last season, the Mean Green entered this game with a sub-.500 record but was allowed to attend because of a dearth of bowl-eligible teams in the Sun Belt. But it's been a long time since North Texas made consecutive bowl appearances -- 55 years, to be exact. The Mean Green may not get much press but its defense has been pretty solid this season. North Texas ranked third in the country in scoring defense, yielding 14.4 points per game, and tied Texas for the most shutouts in the nation with three.
The Bearcats rebounded from a 2-5 start to win their first league championship since 1964 (the Bearcats tied Texas Christian for the Conference USA regular season title). Three of those initial losses were by five or fewer points, including a four-point loss to national title contender Ohio State. Sophomore quarterback Gino Guidugli set school season records for attempts, completions, passing yards and total offense, and his 21 touchdown passes are second in school history. He's already the third quarterback in Cincinnati history to throw for 5,000 career yards, and it took him two years to do it. Perhaps the Bengals should give him a shot.
-- Matt Bonesteel