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
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features University of North Carolina Tar Heels takes on the University of Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium.
Head coach Butch Davis takes his Tar Heels down to Miami where they are 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the ACC. The Tar Heels continue to play solid football even though their program has been marred by allegations and suspensions from the start of the season due to players accepting improper benefits from agents. Davis has gotten his Tar Heels to win its last four games including last weekend’s 44-10 beating of Virginia. North Carolina is scoring 28 ppg while gaining 376.8 total ypg.
The Tar Heels have struggled in the running game this season as they are only generating just 125.3 ypg behind the legs of seniors Johnny White, 464 yards 4 touchdowns, and Shaun Draughn, 287 yards 4 touchdowns. As for the passing attack senior T.J. Yates, 1495 yards 11 touchdowns 1 INT, is completing 66.5 percent of throws. Senior wide receiver Zack Pianalto, 311 yards 1 touchdowns, was leading the team in the receiving department but was lost for the season last week with a broken fibula. They will now have to lean on junior wide receiver Dwight Jones, 302 yards 3 touchdowns, who exploded last week for 198 yards.
Defensively, UNC has been able to limit opponents to 19 ppg and 332.0 total ypg despite missing many key components for much of this season including Marvin Austin. The Tar Heels have excelled against the pass though this season as they have come up with 11 interceptions and just 6 passing scores allowed.
Head coach Randy Shannon also has his Hurricanes at a 4-2 overall record and 2-1 in ACC play after coming off a 28-13 victory over Duke last weekend. Miami is generating 32 ppg and 370.5 total ypg. Junior quarterback Jacory Harris, 1344 yards 11 touchdowns 9 INTs, has only completed 57.1 percent of his passes. Harris often looks to senior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, 388 yards 6 touchdowns, when he goes to the air. The ground attack is lead by senior Damien Berry, 327 yards 3 touchdowns, and his 4.8 ypc.
Moving the ball and scoring points against the Miami defense has proven to be difficult, as the team is limiting opponents to 15 ppg and only 3.2 yards per rushing attempt. A total of 17 sacks is solid, and the Hurricanes have come up with 10 takeaways as well. Junior linebacker Sean Spence has recorded a team high 38 tackles including 8 tackles for loss is the star to watch on that side of the ball.
North Carolina owns an 8-5 series lead over Miami, which includes three straight wins over the Hurricanes.
PICK: University of North Carolina Tar Heels
This game goes down on the ABC network and it features the Louisiana State University Tigers take on the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game down in Atlanta.
The Tigers finished with a record of 9-4 and 5-3 in the SEC and closed out last season with a 19-17 loss to Penn State in the Capital One Bowl. Les Miles is just 17-9 since leading the Tigers to the 2007 national title. The main problem for LSU last year was an offense that hardly moved and ranked as the worst in the SEC.
The Tigers will be turning most of their hopes onto the arm of junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, 2,166 yards 17 touchdowns and 7 INTS. Jefferson will more than likely be looking for senior Terrence Toliver, 53 catches 735 yards 3 touchdowns, when he throws the ball. The running game will more than likely be one of a committee. It’s no telling if Russel Shepard, Richard Murphy, Stevan Ridley or redshirt freshman Michael Ford will get the bulk of the carries but they all will work in sharing the workload.
The LSU defense was among the top units in the country in 2009 and that made things all that much more disappointing, considering the offense could not capitalize. The squad returns just four starters from a year ago and still hangs it’s strength in the secondary, where defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne are as good as it gets. Peterson will definitely make NFL scouts drool as he’s the closet thing the NCAA has to a shutdown corner.
The Tar Heels on the other hand, will be without 12 players for the game after the fallout from an ongoing NCAA investigation. The school said Friday that defensive ends Robert Quinn and Michael McAdoo, cornerbacks Kendric Burney and Charles Brown, receiver Greg Little and suspended defensive tackle Marvin Austin were declared ineligible for the opener for “violating school and/or NCAA rules.” Top running backs Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, safeties Brian Gupton, Da’Norris Searcy and Jonathan Smith along with defensive end Linwan Euwell are also being held out during the probe.
Additionally its unclear if linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter, and safety Deunta Williams will play as they didn’t travel with the team.
As the cards have started to fall before the season has even gotten under way for the Tar Heels head coach Butch Davis has to rally his team together and move forward. North Carolina went 8-5 and 4-4 in the ACC but suffered a 19-17 loss to Pittsburgh in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last season.
Senior quarterback T.J. Yates, 2,136 yards 14 touchdowns 15 INTS, will have his hands full especially since he will be without his favorite target in Little. With Draughn and Houston both being out the Tar Heels are turning it’s ground game over to Johnny White, 19 carries 146 yards and a touchdown, as a junior last season.
The climate for the Tar Heels was suppose to be one of a top-notch defense instead now turns to one of uncertainty as the suspensions for UNC could easily prove to be its undoing.
This is the seventh all-time meeting between these two teams as LSU has won the last five in a row, including a 30-3 rout in Baton Rouge in the last meeting in 1986. LSU is also 7-1 at the Georgia Dome.
PICK: Louisiana State University Tigers
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
Virginia Tech’s have a chance to reach a third straight ACC title game, meanwhile North Carolina may be hard-pressed to even make a bowl game. The Hokies look to bounce back from their first conference loss when they host the Tar Heels, who are still seeking a league win after tumbling from their preseason Top 25 ranking.
Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1) lost its season opener to Alabama but looked like a possible BCS title contender in winning five in a row from there, including a 31-7 rout of Miami on Sept. 26. Then they lost a showdown at Georgia Tech on Oct. 17, losing 28-23. Virginia Tech held its previous three opponents to 142 yards rushing, but the spread-option offense of the Yellow Jackets had 309 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Coach Frank Beamers Hokies are one of four teams in the ACC Coastal Division with one loss, joining Duke, Virginia and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets already have played six conference games, meaning the Hokies need an upset by either Wake Forest or Duke if they’re to have any chance of reaching Tampa on Dec. 5 to play for a third consecutive conference title.
Tyrod Taylor the junior quarterback is fourth nationally in passer rating (159.7) and had one interception all season before throwing two against Georgia Tech. Taylor has averaged 204.0 yards through the air in his past three games with five touchdown passes. Taylor’s job has been made easier by the emergence of redshirt freshman tailback Ryan Williams, who has rushed for 100 yards or more in five of the Hokies’ past six games.
The Tar Heels (4-3, 0-3), who have the nation’s seventh-ranked defense but have lost three of four. Butch Davis Tar Heels averaged 164.0 yards and totaled 10 points in losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia, then looked sloppy again in a 42-12 victory over Georgia Southern. The offense was much better last Thursday against Florida State, totaling 333 yards – 238 on the ground – but the Tar Heels blew an 18-point lead in the second half to lose 30-27.
It’s been the offense that’s burned the Tar Heels in their meetings against Virginia Tech since the Hokies joined the ACC. They’ve averaged 274.6 yards and 12.8 points in losing all five matchups.
Last season, however, Virginia Tech needed to rally to beat North Carolina 20-17 in Chapel Hill. Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates was 11 of 18 for 181 yards and a touchdown while Taylor threw for 125 yards and two interceptions, but Yates got hurt early in the fourth quarter and backup Mike Paulus’ two INTs helped the Hokies come back to win. Yates, who threw four interceptions in seven games last season as a sophomore, already has eight this year.
North Carolina hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent on the road since a 38-3 win at Clemson on Oct. 20, 2001.
PICK: Virgina Tech Hokies
The Florida State Seminoles program has taken a turn for the worse as they stare down an ugly 2-4 record for the first time since 1976 and 0-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time ever.
Florida State ranks last in the ACC in total defense (426.7 yards per game), run defense (172.8) and pass defense (253.8). The Noles are 107th nationally in total defense and 90th in scoring defense (28.2 point per game) and are allowing more than 18 yards per pass completion — the worst in the country.
FSU has been good on offense. QB Christian Ponder has thrown for 1,781 yards and nine touchdowns with just one pick; he is coming off a five-touchdown game against Georgia Tech, becoming the first FSU QB to throw five since 2001. The Seminoles lead the conference in total offense (426 yards per game), and Ponder leads the ACC in passing yards (296.8 ypg) and total offense (317.3 ypg).
Senior Richard Goodman and sophomore Bert Reed are consistent playmakers at the receiver position. Each player has posted a little over 350 yards receiving this season and own a solid 13 yards per catch average.
The Seminoles travel to Kenan Stadium to battle the North Carolina Tarheels. The Tarheels have been equally disappointing in conference play with a 0-2 mark which included an upset loss to Virginia. However, the Tarheels are above the .500 mark at 4-2 on the year.
North Carolina, which has two wins against I-AA teams this season, has been about the polar opposite of FSU. The Heels are pretty solid on defense but not good at all on offense, with an offensive line that has been injury-ravaged. UNC ranks last in the ACC in total offense (282.2 yard per game) and first in total defense (237.7). The Heels have only 56 rushing yards in their two conference games.
The Tarheels offense lead by junior QB T.J Yates has 7 picks on the season including two a piece in both ACC match-ups. The Tarheels quarterback has not been very helpful in the passing game averaging just 173 yards per game. Tailback Shaun Draughn gets most the action and has been a stable runner averaging 4 yards. Draughn is the more elusive back, but Ryan Houston will get the ball in power needed situations and already has 7 scores on the year.
Butch Davis defense is the best in the ACC. The Tarheels rank 3rd in overall defense holding teams to just 237 yards per game behind only Alabama and Florida. One number that also jumps out heading into their meeting with Florida State is their pass defense which ranks number 1 in all of college football holding teams to just 125 yards passing. The Tarheels have yet to play a quarterback like Ponder, but they are still very talented in the secondary.
UNC defensive end Robert Quinn leads the ACC and is seventh in the country with 11 tackles for a loss of 69 yards, and is tied for first with three forced fumbles and also has four quarterback hurries. He’s second in the ACC and seventh in the nation with seven sacks for 58 yards.
Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles were expected to be front runners in the ACC this season, but they are ranked dead last in the ACC. The Seminoles chances of not making a bowl are in doubt for the first time in 28 years.
These two teams haven’t met since 2004. But FSU leads all-time 14-1-1. This will be the first Thursday night home game in UNC history.
PICK: University of North Carolina Tar Heels