CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- West Virginia will try to complete a remarkable turnaround under second-year coach Rich Rodriguez when it faces Virginia in the inaugural Continental Tire Bowl.
The contest, which will be played at Ericsson Stadium, the home of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, pits a pair of teams that posted surprising second-place finishes in their conferences.
A victory will give West Virginia (9-3) a seven-win improvement over last season's 3-8 finish. The Mountaineers suffered their only Big East Conference loss to top-ranked Miami and clinched second place with a 24-17 victory over Pittsburgh in the regular season finale.
"Obviously, at the beginning of the year they set a goal to have a winning season and get to a bowl game and I think they've exceeded that by finishing second in the league," Rodriguez said.
The Mountaineers boast the nation's No. 2 rushing offense (286.9 yards per game) and rely on the triple threat of Avon Cobourne, Quincy Wilson and quarterback Rasheed Marshall.
Cobourne, West Virginia's all-time rushing leader, ran for 1,593 yards and 15 TDs this season. Wilson added 863 yards and six touchdowns, while Marshall chipped in with 618 yards and 12 scores on the ground.
Virginia (8-5) also exceeded expectations after being picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Cavaliers rebounded from a 0-2 start with a six-game winning streak in midseason and closed conference play with upset victories over North Carolina State (14-9) and Maryland (48-13).
"I know that they're kind of like us," Rodriguez said. "They had a nice run and tied for second in their league."
Matt Schaub earned ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors, passing for a school-record 2,794 yards and a ACC-leading 27 TDs. He set eight single-season Virginia marks and ranked ninth nationally in passing efficiency.
Schaub's favorite target was Billy McMullen, a two-time all-ACC pick who had 68 receptions for 886 yards and three TDs.
However, the Cavaliers' running game is not nearly as strong as West Virginia's as Wali Lundy is their top rusher with just 699 yards.
West Virginia and Virginia have not met since 1985, when the Cavaliers posted a 27-7 victory to take an 11-10-1 lead in the all-time series.
Virginia has a four-game bowl losing streak and is 4-8 all-time in the postseason. West Virginia is 10-12 in bowl play, including a 49-38 victory over Mississippi in the 2000 Music City Bowl in its last appearance.
With both schools located within driving distance of Charlotte, a sellout crowd is expected.