MOTOR CITY BOWL
* Who: Toledo vs. Boston College.
* Where: Ford Field, Detroit.
* Time, TV: 5 p.m., ESPN.
* Records: Toledo 9-4, 7-1 Mid-American Conference; Boston College 8-4, 3-4 Big East.
* Coaches: Toledo, Tom Amstutz; Boston College, Tom O'Brien.
* Payout: $780,000 per team.
* Bowl History: The Rockets shine when a bowl deigns to give them an invite, going 6-1 over the years. They won this game last year, and their only loss came in the 1984 California Bowl. The Eagles (7-6 in bowl games) have been almost as impressive in the postseason of late, winning four of their last five bowl games, including last year's Music City Bowl.
"Toledo Tom" Amstutz takes being true to one's home town and school to a whole new level. He was born and raised in Toledo, attended the university and worked his way up to head coach. "I started at Toledo by bringing in the coffee and rolling up the mats," Amstutz said. "I was a position coach, then a coordinator, then the assistant head coach. It's just hard work and believing in the program. That's why I'm here." He's also good with a quote. "My primary concern is that, after the coin flip, we have to play them," he said of the Eagles at a news conference this month. "I started looking at some film, and I went delirious and had to shut it off." Amstutz has won more games in his first two seasons (19) than any other Toledo coach. Quarterback Brian Jones has completed 70.7 percent of his passes, with 21 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions.
Best remembered for handing Notre Dame its first loss of the season on Nov. 2, Boston College otherwise struggled with the better teams on its schedule. The Eagles' four losses all came against teams that were ranked at some point in the season, but they whipped up on the dregs of the Big East (Syracuse, Temple and Rutgers) in their final three games to earn the bowl bid. Boston College should let running back Derrick Knight carry much of the load against Toledo's middling rush defense. Knight had eight 100-yard rushing games this season (BC is 7-1 in those games) and ranked 18th in the country in rushing (113.9 yards per game). Injuries early in the season to cornerback Peter Shean, defensive end Antonio Garay and defensive tackle Doug Goodwin hurt the Eagles on defense, but Boston College still ranked 29th in the nation.
* Who: Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh.
* Where: Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix.
* Time, TV: 8:30 p.m., ESPN.
* Records: Oregon State 8-4, 4-4 Pacific-10; Pittsburgh 8-4, 5-2 Big East.
* Coaches: Oregon State, Dennis Erickson; Pittsburgh, Walt Harris.
* Payout: $750,000 per team.
* Bowl History: The Beavers are 3-3 in bowls, but have been to just two since 1965, a 23-17 loss to Hawaii in the 1999 Oahu Classic and a 41-9 pasting of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2000 season. The Panthers are 9-12, losing to North Carolina State in last year's Tangerine Bowl.
Once thought of as a challenger for the Pac-10 title, the Beavers dropped their first three conference games and fell from contention. But they won four of their last five, including a 21-point smackdown of hated rival Oregon in the Civil War, and landed in a baseball field for today's game. Oregon State ranks 10th in the nation in total defense, yielding 293 yards per game. Sophomore running back Steven Jackson rushed for 1,665 yards this season, which is only 78 yards less than the entire Pittsburgh team. Quarterback Derek Anderson, who has played for most of the season despite a sprained ankle, will finally be 100 percent for this game. He still had a solid season, throwing for 2,994 yards and 24 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions. Senior linebacker Nick Barnett is a force, with 112 tackles and five sacks on the season.
The Panthers hung tough against top-ranked Miami on Nov. 21, driving to the Hurricanes' 20 late in the game with a chance to tie. But Rod Rutherford couldn't connect with Yogi Roth in the end zone, giving Miami the win and eventual Big East championship. Still, Harris should be commended for making the Panthers contenders again after years of being a ho-hum team in a ho-hum conference. Their 8-4 record is their best since 1989, and Harris's name has come up in media reports about coaching vacancies at other schools, although he has denied talking to anyone. Freshman wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was a ballboy for the Minnesota Vikings before coming to Pittsburgh, was named Big East rookie of the year after catching a conference-best 64 receptions for 917 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Panthers' defense ranked 11th in the country.