Primetime College Football: Meineke Car Care Bowl
The 8th annual Meineke Care Care Bowl will see the Pittsburgh Panthers take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in Charlotte North Carolina.
Head coach Dave Wannstedt’s Panthers enter the Meineke Car Car Bowl at 9-3 and 5-2 in the Big East Conference with their last lost coming to Big East champion Cincinnati, 45-44. Pitt is still competing for its first 10-win campaign since finishing 11-1 behind Dan Marino in 1981. This is Pitt’s 26th all-time bowl appearance and it has gone 10-15 in such games. The Panthers have dropped three straight postseason bouts, including a 3-0 setback to Oregon State in the 2008 Sun Bowl.
The biggest surprise for Pitt this season is without question tailback Dion Lewis, who rushed for 1,640 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Lewis has rushed for more than 100 yards in seven straight games and is just 47 yards away from breaking Tony Dorsett’s school record for rushing yards by a freshman. Bill Stull has benefited from the attention paid to Lewis, as he has completed 64.6 percent of his tosses on the season. The senior gunslinger has thrown for 21 touchdowns against 8 interceptions and averaged 205.8 passing ypg. His main target is Jonathan Baldwin who caught for 1,080 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tight end Dorin Dickerson is one of the best in the country and grabbed a team-best 10 touchdowns.
The Panthers lead the nation with 44 sacks on defensive and defensive end Greg Romeus highlights the team with 8 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. The secondary have also recorded 14 interceptions against just 15 passing touchdowns surrendered. Safety Dom DeCicco leads the team and the secondary with 85 stops and three picks.
As for the Tar Heels they earned its way to the bowl game with an 8-4 record and 4-4 in the ACC. The Tar Heels are making their 27th all-time appearance in a bowl game and their second straight to the Car Care Bowl. UNC lost to West Virginia, 31-30, in the 2008 Car Care Bowl, dropping the program to 12-14 in bowl games.
Butch Davis Tar Heels have had their fare share of struggles on offense this season, averaging just 311.4 total ypg. T.J. Yates has thrown 12 touchdowns but also 14 interceptions in a total of 1,953 yards. Greg Little is the main outlet for Yates with 55 receptions for 637 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ryan Houston took over after starter Shaun Draughn was lost due to a shoulder injury late in the season in the backfield has rushed for 630 yards and 9 touchdowns.
The Tar Heels are limiting opponents to a mere 16 ppg and only 267.8 total ypg, while recording 31 sacks and 28 turnovers. The defense has been especially good against the run and ranks ninth nationally, allowing only 92.8 ypg and just 2.8 yards per carry. The unit has also fared well versus the pass and ranks in the Top 10 in interceptions with 19. Robert Quinn is one of the best pass rushers in the nation, leading the Tar Heels with 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Corner Kendric Burney and safety Deunta Williams have combined for 11 interceptions and 314 return yards on those picks.
This is the seventh meeting between Pitt and UNC on the gridiron, with the Tar Heels holding a 4-2 edge in the series. The teams last met in 2000, when the Tar Heels notched a 20-17 victory over the Panthers at Three Rivers Stadium.
PICK: University of North Carolina Tar Heels