Bowls taking NC teams coast-to-coast

Five schools are headed to college football’s postseason

Coach Dave Doeren will lead the Wolfpack in their first game in California in more than six decades when NC State faces UCLA in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Diego. (Mark Wallheiser / AP Photo)

North Carolina’s five bowl-eligible teams will be playing coast-to-coast this December. Here’s a look at where they are headed.

Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky Boca Raton Bowl
FAU Stadium; Boca Raton, Florida
Dec. 18, 11 a.m., ESPN

Appalachian State will get North Carolina’s bowl season started with the first game of the five.

At stake: App and quarterback Chase Brice want to get the bad taste of a disappointing Sun Belt Championship Game loss out of their mouths, and the Mountaineers will be looking to reach 11 wins for the third time in four seasons.

Background: It’s the seventh straight year that App has played in a bowl game and the first time the Mountaineers have played one in Florida. It’s App State’s second trip to the Sunshine State this season. App lost at Miami in the second week of the season.

App State and Western Kentucky have met five times in their histories, most recently in 2000. App has won four of the five matchups, including the last three — in 1984, 1985 and 2000.

East Carolina vs. Boston College

Military Bowl
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium; Annapolis, Maryland
Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m., ESPN

The East Carolina Pirates will look to snap a two-game losing streak against the ACC in the Military Bowl.

At stake: East Carolina will end a six-year bowl drought, heading to the postseason for the first time since the 2014 season. That was also the last time ECU reached eight wins.

Background: This is ECU’s second-ever trip to the Military Bowl. The Pirates lost to Maryland, 51-20, following the 2010 season.

NC State vs. UCLA

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Petco Park; San Diego
Dec. 28, 8 p.m., Fox

The NC State Wolfpack will travel the farthest this postseason, heading to San Diego.

At stake: State can win 10 games for just the second time in program history.

Background: It’s State’s second straight bowl game and the first trip to California for the Pack since a 7-0 loss at UCLA on Oct. 29, 1960.

“A lot of my guys have never been that far west,” said coach Dave Doeren, who pointed out that he was born in San Diego.

The game will be played in the home of the MLB San Diego Padres.

“I’ve never played in a professional baseball stadium,” said Doeren.

“Part of bowl games is the life experience,” he continued. “Getting a chance to go out to a city most of our guys haven’t seen, on the Pacific Ocean, get to see the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, tour a navy ship.”

Doeren is hopeful the game will help expose new fans to NC State, although San Diego should be familiar with the team.

“They’ve seen Phillip Rivers,” he said. “So they should have a little bit of an idea what Wolfpack football is all about.”

North Carolina vs. South Carolina

Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Bank of America Stadium; Charlotte
Dec. 30, 11:30 p.m., ESPN

North Carolina will play in familiar surroundings against a familiar face.

At stake: After high expectations entering the season, UNC is hoping to salvage a winning record for the season.

Background: The Tar Heels beat South Carolina in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium to open the 2018 season in Mack Brown’s first game back in Chapel Hill. Carolina also lost to the Gamecocks to open the 2015 season in Charlotte.

This is UNC’s fifth visit to this bowl game, which has now gone by four different names when hosting the Tar Heels. UNC lost to Boston College in 2004 in the Continental Tire Bowl, lost to West Virginia in 2008 and Pitt in 2009 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, and beat Cincinnati in 2013 in the Belk Bowl.

“It’s perfect for a large portion of our roster because their family and friends will easily be able to attend,” said Brown.

Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
TIAA Bank Field; Jacksonville, Florida
Dec. 31, 11 a.m., ESPN

After winning the ACC Atlantic Division and losing in the conference championship game, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons will head to the Gator Bowl.

At stake: It has been one of the most successful seasons in Wake Forest history, and the Deacs don’t want to end with back‑to‑back losses.

Background: The Deacs played the Aggies in the Belk Bowl in the 2017 season, winning a wild 55-52 contest. That was part of Wake’s current bowl streak, which reaches six games this year, although the Deacs have lost the last two. It’s Wake’s first Florida bowl game since winning the ACC and playing in the Orange Bowl following the 2006 season. Wake won the ACC Championship Game that year in their most recent trip to Jacksonville. The Deacs won the first ever Gator Bowl, following the 1945 season.

“The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl is a perfect fit for this team and our fans,” said Wake coach Dave Clawson. “That week and game will cap a memorable season for our program.”