Bowling Green's matchup Thursday with Pittsburgh presents an opportunity to put a check mark of success beside another of the Falcons' preseason goals.
The Falcons have a 10-3 overall record after beating previously undefeated and nationally ranked Northern Illinois, 47-27, in the Mid-American Conference championship game.
"One of our goals every year is to beat a BCS team," fifth-year senior tight end Alex Bayer of Bowling Green said. "This year we had our two chances, and we didn't come through.
"In my five years here I still haven't beaten a BCS-level team, so I'm excited to get another chance at it. Especially in my last year, to be able to go out and play another game, we're excited."
For Pittsburgh (6-6) becoming bowl eligible in the first year of play in the Atlantic Coast Conference is a positive. Pitt is filling an at-large spot in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which has the eighth selection of Big Ten teams, but that league only had seven bowl-eligible teams,
Pitt was not selected for one of the ACC's seven contractual bowl tie-ins.
The Panthers tied with Maryland for the worst conference record among the 11 bowl-eligible ACC teams, and the Terrapins received the final ACC bid to the Military Bowl.
The Panthers were unpredictable during the season posting victories over Duke and Notre Dame, but losing to Navy.
Pittsburgh faces a tough task against Bowling Green.
The Falcons have a top 10 defense, which allowed only 44 points in Bowling Green's last five games, all victories.
Bowling Green's offense has also been rolling of late, scoring 223 points in the last five games. The Falcons have a strong running attack, and the passing game is improving every week.
"Bowling Green was impressive not only in its MAC championship win but all season long, and we have a competitive game of football ahead," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said.
Bowling Green will have to contain Pitt's wide-receiving tandem of Tyler Boyd and Devin Street, who both earned all-conference honors.
The Falcons will also have to contend with Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the ACC's defensive player of the year.
Another story line is Bowling Green redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson, a Pennsylvania native who has special motivation in playing Pittsburgh. He was not recruited by the Panthers, because he was deemed to be too short.
Johnson tweeted before the pairings announcement that he was hoping Pitt would be Bowling Green's opponent.
"I didn't mean to offend too many people, but it is what it is, it's out there, and it's just a little motivation that I'll use," Johnson said. "I know a lot of guys on the team. I've played with them, and I've played against them in high school ... It's going to be exciting going up against guys I know personally."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--Matt Johnson of Bowling Green has developed into a top quarterback, passing for 3,195 yards with 23 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He is a mobile quarterback, being able to make plays with his feet to keep drives alive.
--LG Dominic Flewellyn and C David "Chief" Kekuewa, both seniors, are mainstays on the line for Bowling Green. Flewellyn leads the team with 46 consecutive starts. Both were first-team all-conference selections.
--S Jerry "BooBoo" Gates, a safety, is the first player in school history to score touchdowns via interception, fumble, kickoff and punt returns.
--LB D.J. Lynch leads the Falcons in tackles with 78, and he is very active from his outside spot.
--DT Aaron Donald of Pitt is the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year. He is a disruptive defender with 26 1/2 tackles for losses, and 10 sacks this season. He also has 16 quarterback hurries.
--Freshman WR Tyler Boyd has made an immediate impact for Pitt. He has 1,001 yards receiving, and is first on the team in all-purpose yards with 1,534 yards, averaging 127.8 yards per game. Boyd also has rushed for 108 yards and had 425 yards in kickoff returns. He was a second-team all-conference performer.
--QB Tom Savage of Pitt is minus-208 yards rushing as the Panthers have allowed 41 sacks, but he has thrown for 2,834 yards and 21 touchdowns with nine interceptions while completing 61.2 percent of his passes.
--DB Jason Hendricks leads Pittsburgh with 75 tackles.
BOWL HISTORY: Bowling Green is making its 11th appearance in a bowl game, and the Falcons are 4-6, with the last win coming in the 2004 GMAC Bowl, now the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Pitt is playing in its 11th bowl since 2000 and its sixth consecutive since 2008. The Panthers are 12-17 all-time in bowl games.
Pitt holds a 2-1 lead in the all-time series with Bowling Green. The two teams most recently played in the first game of the 2008 season, when the Falcons beat No. 25 Pitt, 27-17, at Heinz Field. It was the first time the Panthers lost to a MAC team at home.