The Wolfpack had finished 4th in the Atlantic Coast Conference and were playing in a bowl game for the third consecutive year. At one point the Wolfpack were ranked at #10 before three straight losses knocked them out of the poll but they bounced back into the poll by beating Florida State in the last game of the season. This was their first appearance in the Gator Bowl since 1992. Notre Dame was in their first season under Tyrone Willingham and in their first bowl game since 2001. They were ranked as high as #4 before losing to Boston College in midseason and lost to USC in the last game of the regular season that cost them their shot at a BCS bowl game. This was Notre Dame's first Gator Bowl appearance since 1999.
T. A. McLendon ran for only 18 yards, but two of his 11 rushes were for touchdowns as Phillip Rivers threw 23 of 37 for 228 yards and two touchdowns of his own as Notre Dame's defense allowed 21 points in the second quarter and the Irish never recovered, having more interceptions (3) than scores (2 field goals).