Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) 12/28- 3:20PM EST
Line: UNC -2.5
Belk BOWL- Charlotte, NC
Two teams that mirrored each other during the season will take the field on Saturday afternoon in the Belk Bowl hoping to end the year on a high note.
Cincinnati (9-3) and North Carolina (6-6) both struggled in the early season, then made some midseason changes at quarterback which led to long winning streaks before both teams lost close games to longtime rivals in their regular-season finale.
“They are a lot like us because they had a slow start and then won a lot of games in the end,” Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville said. “We are probably a much better team now than we were at the beginning of the year, as they are.”
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said of his team… “This is a resilient bunch of guys that kept believing in one another throughout the year and I’m glad they were rewarded with a bowl game. We’re looking forward to facing a very good Cincinnati team led by an outstanding coach in Tommy Tuberville.”
The Bearcats will be making their second consecutive appearance in as many years in the Belk Bowl defeating Duke last year 48-34, and this year are back in it thanks in part to a six-game winning streak during the middle of the season that helped them finish third in the AAC.
Quarterback Brendon Kay took over the signal calling for the Bearcats in the second game of the season replacing injured first-stringer Munchie Legaux and responded well throwing for more than 3,000 yards in a season, despite not always being 100 percent healthy.
“I tell you that kid competed and he did it on one leg. His ankle is so bad. He’s been wanting to play and push through it and it’s been that way for about six weeks and he has only practiced about one or two days a week,” Tuberville said of Kay following his team’s 31-24 loss to then-No. 19 Louisville on December 5.
“He doesn’t throw the ball much because his shoulders are so banged up but I tell you he is a warrior.”
The Tar Heels also made a quarterback change with Marquise Williams taking over for Bryn Renner who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury back on November 2nd. The more mobile Williams generated 14 touchdown passes while also rushing for 531 yards and six scores to lead the Heels.
Look for North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, one of the nation’s top tight ends to be a main target as he leads the team in catches with 55 and with yards with 895, as he looks to challenge the Cincinnati defense.
“I just go there out there and do what I do best,” Ebron told the school’s official website.
Ebron is a finalist for the Makey Award which is given to the top tight end in all of college football and has already declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft following the Belk Bowl.
North Carolina finds itself in the Belk Bowl by way of a 1-5 start followed by a five game winning streak to become bowl eligible before losing to in-state rival Duke 27-25 to end the regular-season.
Coach Fedora is proud of the way his team performed after a horrible start. “I’m excited for our team, especially our seniors, who fought through some early season adversity and won five of the last six games to become bowl eligible.”
The Bearcats may have the better record, but the oddsmakers are giving the Tar Heels a slight (minus -2.5) point favorite playing close to home in Charlotte, but get the latest spread on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.
The Tar Heels are 2-0 all-time against the Bearcats, but I predict Cincinnati, who outscored their opponents by 166 points through the backend of their schedule to continue the trend on Saturday and leave the state of North Carolina with the Belk Bowl trophy.
By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter