The game between the Mid-American Conference (MAC) team Toledo and Big East Conference Boston College was played at neutral-site Ford Field. This was the first Motor City Bowl played at Ford Field; all previous games were played at the Pontiac Silverdome. As then organized the Motor City Bowl matched a MAC team and a team from either the Big Ten, the Big East Conference, or an at-large team. Toledo accepted a bid for the Motor City Bowl after losing to Marshall in the MAC Championship Game. Toledo entered the bowl game as the defending champion, having defeated Cincinnati in the 2001 Motor City Bowl. Boston College was the first Big East team to play in the Motor City Bowl and was playing in its fourth straight bowl game.
The bowl game MVP was Boston College quarterback Brian St. Pierre, who completed 25 of 35 passes for 342 yards, a personal career high. Boston College scored on its first six possessions, and its 51 points set a Motor City Bowl record which would later be tied in the 2007 Motor City Bowl when the Purdue Boilermakers defeated the Central Michigan Chippewas 51-48. On a sour note two Toledo players were ejected during the game; one for throwing a punch and another for a late hit out of bounds on St. Pierre.