2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl Preview
West Virginia (8-4, 5-2 Big East) vs. North Carolina (8-4, 4-4 ACC)
December 27th, 2008 @ 1:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – Charlotte, North Carolina
The Meineke Car Care Bowl will kick off the first of three matchups between the Big East and ACC this bowl season. It also marks the first matchup between two BCS conference teams. Both teams sit just outside of the rankings and a win would likely mean finishing in the top 25. West Virginia came into the season as the pollsters’ favorite to win the Big East but uncharacteristically struggled on offense all season long. Meanwhile, North Carolina moved quickly into contention in the ACC in Butch Davis’ third year.
West Virginia began the year with a disappointing 1-2 record but rebounded to win seven of their last nine games. Despite being one of the most explosive offenses in college football the last three years, WVU only scored more than thirty points three times. Last season, they only scored less than thirty points three times! Overcoming graduation losses and a coaching change has been a challenge for Pat White and company. West Virginia has played pretty well on defense this season, allowing more than 20 points only twice all season.
North Carolina took a big step forward this year, beginning with a very impressive 7-2 start. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they lost two games in a row before knocking off rival Duke to close out the year. UNC had a bevy of injuries at the quarterback position this season but starting quarterback TJ Yates is finally healthy, a very good sign for Butch Davis’ team. North Carolina has also been pretty solid defensively this season, including holding Georgia Tech’s dangerous option attack to a mere seven points in November.
WVU and UNC played and defeated two common opponents this year: UConn and Rutgers. While UConn and Rutgers are both bowl-eligible this season, neither team is a fantastic win to hang their hat on. The best win between either team definitely belongs to UNC, who dominated Georgia Tech 28-7 in early November. The Tar Heels have also played a much tougher schedule, so they will be more battle-tested this season. This game will most likely be a low-scoring affair: Both teams have been more successful on defense than offense all year long. However, UNC has the better offense despite Pat White’s individual brilliance and is also better on the other side of the ball. These two teams are moving in opposite directions: UNC is quickly rising towards the top of the ACC while WVU is saying goodbye to one of the best players in school history. I expect that UNC’s solid defense will be effective in slowing Pat White and Noel Devine and UNC’s offense will score enough to get the job done. In the ACC-Big East challenge, round one goes to the ACC thanks to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Meineke Car Care Bowl Pick: North Carolina 20 - West Virginia 13
by Matt Baxendell
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