College Football
Preview
East Carolina vs Florida
When: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, January 3, 2015
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama

BIRMINGHAM BOWL STORYLINES

1. Florida - ranked ninth nationally in total defense - will be challenged by the country's top quarterback-receiver combination. American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year Shane Carden has hit NCAA-record holder Justin Hardy for 27 career touchdowns - the most among active duos. Carden averages 359.1 passing yards - with five 400-yard games this season - while the Gators are allowing 194.2 yards through the air, 24th in the nation.

2. Freshman starting quarterback Treon Harris is expected to play for Florida after being charged with a second-degree misdemeanor Dec. 13 after operating a vehicle without a valid license. Two small bags of marijuana were also found in the car but Harris and freshmen teammates Jalen Tabor and J.C. Jackson were not charged because the car did not belong to any of them. The Florida athletic department released a statement Friday afternoon saying "We are aware of the incident and are dealing with it internally and their bowl status hasn't changed."

3. D.J. Durkin, who will not return to Florida after spending two seasons as the defensive coordinator, will serve as interim head coach for the bowl game while recently hired head coach Jim McElwain has been watching practices. McElwain hired Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins on Dec. 16 to fill the same role at Florida. "(Interim coach) is one of the hardest positions to be in," said Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill, who was the Texas Tech interim coach for the 2010 Alamo Bowl before taking the East Carolina job.

TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida -6.5

ABOUT EAST CAROLINA (8-4, 5-3 American Athletic): Hardy - who won the 2014 Burlsworth Trophy as the best player who began their career as a walk-on - owns the NCAA record for career receptions (376) and leads the nation with 9.2 catches per game. Carden has thrown for 4,309 yards and 28 touchdowns with eight interceptions in 551 attempts. The Pirates - ranked No. 2 in passing (367.3) and fifth in total offense (532.8) - should have freshman receiver Trevon Brown (four TDs before a knee injury on Oct. 23) back for the bowl game.

ABOUT FLORIDA (6-5, 4-4 SEC): Harris has thrown for 633 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions and run for another 240 yards and two scores since taking over as starter five games ago. Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor have combined for 1,382 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and Demarcus Robinson leads the Gators - who have lost five turnovers in their last five games after committing 15 in the previous four games - with 47 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns. Leading tackler Antonio Morrison needs two stops to become the first Gator with 100 tackles since Ahmad Black in 2010.

PREDICTION: Florida 38, East Carolina 35
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
East Carolina 8-4 L1 37.2 25.7 5-1 3-3 7-3 0-0 5-3
Florida 6-5 L1 30.5 21.2 3-3 3-2 5-5 0-0 4-4
Last Meeting
East Carolina Florida
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
No previous meeting.
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
East Carolina N/A
Florida N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
East Carolina N/A
Florida N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
East Carolina N/A
Florida N/A
Touchdowns Player TD
East Carolina N/A
Florida N/A
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
East Carolina S. Carden 65.0 4309 28 8
Florida J. Driskel 54.4 1092 9 10
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
East Carolina B. Allen 134 869 6.5 8
Florida M. Jones 166 817 4.9 6
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
East Carolina J. Hardy 110 1334 12.1 9
Florida D. Robinson 47 774 16.5 7
Touchdowns Player TD
East Carolina J. Hardy 10
Florida M. Jones 7
Quickchart Matchup
East Carolina Off vs  Florida Def
532.8 yards
308.5 yards
5 yards/rush
3.1 yards/rush
7.8 yards/attempt
5.9 yards/attempt
Florida Off vs  East Carolina Def
370.2 yards
369.7 yards
4.4 yards/rush
3.3 yards/rush
6.7 yards/attempt
6.7 yards/attempt