The opponent for the MAC team was scheduled to be the ninth selection of a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. However, the ACC only produced seven bowl-eligible teams in 2009. Therefore, the GMAC Bowl was able to select an at-large team that was bowl eligible and did not have a prior conference tie-in. Many had felt that the invitation would go to Notre Dame, who finished the season at 6-6. After lengthy meetings the Notre Dame administration made the decision that they will not go to a bowl game following the 2009 season. Also, Notre Dame would only have been eligible to fill the slot after all available teams with 7 or more wins had been accommodated. Several sportswriters pointed to the comparatively low payout of the bowl and the potential humiliation if Central Michigan (then the likely opponent) defeated the Irish.
Troy ultimately filled the slot after Southern Miss claimed Conference USA's slot in the 2009 New Orleans Bowl. Although that game has a guaranteed berth for the Sun Belt champion, the organizers used their prerogative to invite the conference's second-place team, Middle Tennessee, not wishing to repeat its Troy–Southern Miss matchup from 2008. As a 9-win team, Troy had priority over any 6–6 teams not already tied to specific bowl games.