Birmingham Bowl Preview: East Carolina Pirates vs Florida Gators

Chris Franklin discusses the upcoming Birmingham Bowl match up between the East Carolina University Pirates and the Florida Gators

Chris Franklin discusses the upcoming Birmingham Bowl match up between the East Carolina University Pirates and the Florida Gators

NCAA Football: East Carolina at North Carolina

Sep 28, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates quarterback Shane Carden (5) is mobbed by teammates after scoring a third quarter touchdown against the North Carolina Tarheels at Kenan Memorial Stadium.  ECU won 55-31. (Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

On Jan. 3, a lot will be going on at Legion Field.

The Birmingham Bowl will pit the East Carolina Pirates (8-4, 5-3 in AAC) against the Florida Gators (6-5, 4-4 in SEC). It will be the culmination of a season for both teams. For East Carolina, it is the end of an era for one of the most prolific tandems in recent college football. Shane Carden and Justin Hardy will end their Pirate careers. Both players are expected to be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Some significant news came out earlier this week with ECU. The Pirates safety Domonique Lennon and nose tackle Terry Williams were suspended for the bowl game due to an undisclosed violation.

Dec 4, 2014; Greenville, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Justin Hardy (2) reacts to a 4th quarter 1st down catch against the Central Florida Knights at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Central Florida Knights defeated the East Carolina Pirates 32-30. (Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
Dec 4, 2014; Greenville, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Justin Hardy (2) reacts to a 4th quarter 1st down catch against the Central Florida Knights at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Central Florida Knights defeated the East Carolina Pirates 32-30. (Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

“We talk about being responsible on and off the field as one of our core values and when certain expectations are not met, no individual is above being held accountable” stated ECU head coach Ruffin McNeil.

Florida comes into the game as a team in transition. Will Muschamp entered the season as the Gators head coach but left after not living up to typical Florida football standards. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who himself will be leaving Florida, will take on the role of interim head coach for the game.

One thing to watch will be a contrast in styles. East Carolina will try to attack the Florida defense through the air while Florida will look to use the run game to keep the Pirate offense on the sidelines and control the clock.

The game will also have importance for the American Athletic Conference. The conference is a part of the “Group of Five” conferences. The AAC is trying to establish itself as the sixth power conference. A win against a Power 5 conference would help support the AAC’s claims it belongs with the top conferences.

The 9th annual Birmingham Bowl will kickoff at 12 PM and be televised on ESPN.

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