Wednesday, Jan. 1

AP Sports Writer

Gator Bowl
At Jacksonville, Fla.
Notre Dame (10-2) vs. North Carolina State (10-3), 12:30 p.m.

Series Record
First meeting.

Last Meeting
First meeting.

Bowl Records
Notre Dame 13-11; N.C. State 9-10-1.

Last Bowl Appearance
Notre Dame lost to Oregon State 41-3 in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl; N.C. State lost to Pittsburgh 34-19 in the 2001 Tangerine Bowl.

Common Opponents This Season
Notre Dame beat Maryland 22-0, beat Florida State 34-24 and beat Navy 30-23; N.C State lost to Maryland 24-21, beat Florida State 17-7 and beat Navy 65-19.

Tyrone Willingham, first season at Notre Dame (10-2), overall (54-38-1); Chuck Amato, third season at N.C. State (25-12).

What To Look For
Notre Dame’s big-play defense against the potent wide-open offense of N.C. State. The Wolfpack put up 33.23 points per game, while Notre Dame allowed just 15.8 points per game, good for a No. 7 national ranking. Will the Notre Dame defense rebound from the USC game?

Streaks, Stats and Notes
Notre Dame opened the season with eight straight wins. … Willingham has the school record for most wins by a first-year coach, breaking the previous mark (9) which was held by Terry Brennan’s (1954) and Ara Parseghian (1964). … The Irish have had seven games decided by eight points or less. … The Irish are trying to post just the sixth 11-win season in school history, the first since 1993 (11-1). … Defense and special teams got the Irish this far. … DB Shane Walton came up with big plays all year (7 INTs – two for TDs). … The West Coast offense never got off the ground behind junior QB Carlyle Holliday. Holliday passed for 1,766 yards, 10 TDs, and 5 INTs. … Arnez Battle was the leading receiver (48 rec., 702 yds., 5 TDs). … WR Omar Jenkins (34 rec., 591 yds., 3 TDs) came on at the end of the season. … Carrying the load on offense was sophomore RB Ryan Grant. He was the first 1,000-yard rusher (1,017) since 1998 for the Irish while scoring a team-high 9 TDs. … N.C. State opened the season with nine straight wins. … N.C. State boasts a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver, a first in school history. … QB Phillip Rivers completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 3,125 yards for 18 TDs and 10 INTs. Phillips also rushed for 10 TDs. … T.A. McLendon rushed for 1,083 yards and 16 TDs. … WR Jerricho Cotchery caught 57 passes for 1,065 yards and 6 TDs. … The Wolfpack ranks 14th in scoring defense (17.9 ppg.) and 15th in total defense (301.9 ypg.).