Since the game's inception in 2008, the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl has had its current setup with a team from Conference USA playing a team from the Big East Conference. Ball State was chosen as a replacement for the potential Big East team, because the conference did not have enough bowl-eligible teams to send a representative to St. Petersburg.
This was the fourth meeting between these two teams. The all-time record is tied 2-2. The last time they played was in 2004.
Initially, the Knights were ineligible for the postseason because of recruiting violations in both football and basketball under previous athletic director Keith Tribble. Almost immediately afterwards, the university appealed; because its hearing was delayed until 2013, the Knights were bowl-eligible for 2012. Finishing as C-USA East Division Champions with a 7–1 conference record, the Knights would go on to the Conference USA Championship Game for the fourth time in eight years. After losing to Tulsa 33–27 in overtime, the Knights advanced to the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl per the C-USA's bowl contingency plan.
This will be the Knights' second Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, they had previously played in the 2009 game, losing to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights by a score of 45–24. It will also be the Knights' final game as a member of Conference USA before they move to the Big East Conference in 2013.