Primetime College Football: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Tennessee Volunteers taking on the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the 12th annual Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee.
North Carolina, 7-5, 4-4 ACC, started off the season with high expectations only to find itself in an 0-2 hole amid a slew of NCAA suspensions that involved 12 players due to receiving benefits and being associated with agents.The NCAA’s evaluation dragged well into the second month of the season and weighed heavily on the Tar Heels, who eventually saw the dismissal of senior defensive tackle and All-American candidate Marvin Austin and were handed permanent ineligibility rulings on top returning wideout senior Greg Little as well as first-team preseason All-American defensive end Robert Quinn and senior starting cornerback Charles Brown.
Tar Heels persevered under head coach Butch Davis to gain a bowl bid for the third straight year, but dropped its last three to end the season. Under a season of turmoil the play of senior quarterback T.J. Yates, who holds UNC career records for completions, attempts, yards and completion percentage and is second in touchdowns, was very consistent and rose up to the occasion at times. Yates threw for 3,184 yards and 18 touchdowns with just 8 interceptions while completing 67.6 percent of his passes. Yates favorite target down field was junior wideout Dwight Jones, who had 895 yards and 4 touchdowns scores on 57 catches.
Senior running back Anthony Elzy has come on strong for the Tar Heels since taking over as the starter in the backfield averaging 177 all-purpose yards over UNC’s final three games and finished as the team’s second leading receiver with 338 yards.
The Tar Heel defense took the biggest hit via off field incidents giving up 338.5 yards per game.
Tennessee, 6-6, 3-5 SEC, came on strong to win its last four games under the first year of head coach Derek Dooley after Lane Kiffin up and bolted after one year. The Volunteers are handled by freshman quarterback Tyler Bray, who the Vols offense has flourished with 50 and 52 points in consecutive weeks in wins over Memphis and Ole Miss. Bray appeared in eight games and threw for 1,537 yards and 14 touchdowns with 7 interceptions and connected on 54.7 percent of his throws.
Bray had quite a few options to work with, mainly junior Tauren Poole who racked up 994 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns on an averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Senior Denarius Moore led the receiving corps with 912 yards and 9 touchdowns. Gerald Jones, Luke Stocker, and freshman Justin Hunter where stellar as well this year especially Hunter who only made just 15 catches but had 6 touchdowns, a UT freshman record, and gained 407 yards with a 27.1 yard average.
The Tar Heels are 12-16 all-time in bowl games with losses in each of their last three postseason appearances. Tennessee is 25-23 all-time in postseason play and making its 49th bowl appearance, which is tied for second in NCAA history alongside Texas.
PICK: University of Tennessee Volunteers