Syracuse, who had finished as co-champion of the Big East Conference (alongside Virginia Tech and Miami, who went to the Carquest and Orange Bowl, respectively), was invited to play in the Liberty Bowl, their first Liberty Bowl since 1961. This was their fifth bowl game in the decade, and 8th in the past 10 seasons. As for Houston, they had finished as co-champion of Conference USA (along with Southern Miss) in the inaugural year of the conference. This was their first bowl game since 1988.
The game found two future first rounders and Super Bowl participants: Syracuse's Donovan McNabb and Houston's Antowain Smith. Although only completing four of ten pass attempts, McNabb rushed for 49 yards and two touchdowns. Smith rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown, as well as receiving for 44 yards and a touchdown. Orangemen running back Malcolm Thomas ran for 201 yards and a touchdown earning MVP honors.