This morning we at Cincy on the Prowl shared our thoughts on Cincinnati’s 2013 football season. Now we’ll jump to the prep for the Belk Bowl.
4) What are your initial impressions of Cincinnati’s Belk Bowl opponent the North Carolina Tar Heels?
Mike Jorgenson (@Bearnati): The Tar Heels have been on the rise for the last few years. I get the impression they’re actually quite a bit like Cincinnati in terms of being primarily viewed as a basketball school but have secretly been hatching a killer football program. The Tar Heels have never won a bowl game in state and the Bearcats are undefeated at the Belk Bowl. Should make for an interesting match up.
Ben Levin (@LevinMachine): Don’t let their 6-6 record fool you. The Tar Heels were a hibernating Grizzly Bear until somebody poked them halfway through the season. After starting 1-5 and losing their starting QB, the Tar Heels got it together and won five in a row before dropping the regular season finale to Duke. This will be a tough match-up, given that UNC will no doubt have a huge home field advantage in Charlotte.
Derek Mack (@damackattackkk): Very reminiscent of the announcement of the Blue Devils last season. Obviously there’s a lot more attention paid to their basketball programs but both Duke and UNC are on the rise in football once again. I think you can clearly see that with the progression the Duke program has made this season as they contended for their first ACC football title in more than two decades. Anyway, both are blue, and both will lose to the Bearcats in Charlotte.
Spencer Tuckerman (@spncrtckrmn): Much like the Blue Devils of last season, the Tar Heels are on the rise. While a 6-6 record is obviously less-than-amazing, this team should not be underestimated. While I would’ve loved to have seen the ‘Cats in the Pinstripe Bowl, I think the return to Charlotte should make for a pretty good match-up.
Tommy Perry: The Tar Heels are a deceivingly tough team. I wasn’t very pleased when I saw we were going to play them, as I wanted to take down Brian Kelly in the Pinstripe Bowl, but I think this game is nice because we will have a god chance to win yet another bowl game. North Carolina has played very well recently and it is tough to take down a hot team in their own backyard. The Tar Heels have scored a whopping 139 of their 386 total points in the second quarter, so the ‘Cats must resist the urge to let up before the half is over.
Chris Bains: The Tar Heels boast an offense that could give Cincinnati fits, though this is still a team that for the most part only beat the dregs on their schedule. I’m definitely concerned about stopping North Carolina when they have the football but for the most part the Bearcats shouldn’t fear this team.
5) Which Tar Heel should the Bearcats keep an eye on in this game?
MJ: Quinshad Davis. Good heavens, 10 touchdown receptions?!? What are the chances of completing shutting a guy like that out during a bowl game? You have to hope to at least keep him under control.
BL: Dual-threat QBs have been a thorn in UC’s side for years (Pat White, Tyrod Taylor, Geno Smith, etc.), so you have to keep an eye on UNC QB Marquise Williams. Williams took over QB duties mid-season, and has constantly improved. Despite not being the starter all year, he has over 400 yards rushing, so UC will need to keep Willams in the pocket and make him beat us through the air.
DM: Although I’m not entirely familiar with the Tar Heels’ play style or their roster, Quinshad Davis looks to be the threat to another Bearcat Belk Bowl win. Although he’s the Tar Heels’ 2nd-leading receiver in reception yards, he has 3 times as many TDs (10) as their best receiver, Eric Ebron. Also, at 6-4, he looks to be a totem pole with the ability to catch footballs in the endzone.
ST: Admittedly I’m pretty unfamiliar with UNC football. That’s actually probably something we can all say. After doing some research, the name that keeps coming up is Quinshad Davis. Like Shaq Washington, Davis is just a sophomore. Unlike Shaq Washington, Davis has a NFL frame, at 6’4″ 205lbs. He didn’t lead his team in receptions, but he hauled in an impressive 10 touchdowns. He hasn’t even completed his second full season at UNC, and he’s already compiled 15 touchdown receptions and 1500 yards. This kid is gonna get the ball in the Belk Bowl. The Bearcat secondary better be ready.
TP: Ryan Switzer, the North Carolina punt returner/receiver. He averages 20 yards a return and he has taken 4 back to the house this year. We don’t want a scenario where we lose all momentum because of special teams breakdowns.
CB: I’m going with Marquise Williams due to his dual-threat abilities. Any guy who gives Cincinnati’s defense more weapons to plan against tends to worry me.
6) What is your prediction for this game?
MJ: Hard fought UC win. I’m getting sick of feeling like our bowl games are road games. First we have Vanderbilt in Tennessee, then Duke in North Carolina and now North Carolina in North Carolina. Ouch. What the Bearcats MUST do is come out ready to play. We cannot squander a 1st quarter again much less a 1st half. If the Bearcats come out and execute an average offensive performance, blended with their typical defensive performance and avoid and special teams blunders, then this should be a win. I’ll call it at 27-24. As usual, I get very nervous predicting a margin of victory by a field goal
BL: Bearcats, 34-23. You can’t sleep on UNC since they did win five straight to gain bowl eligibility, but they really haven’t beaten anybody all that special. In fact, the Heels only have one win against a bowl-bound team. Coach Tommy Tuberville has been aggressive all year, and I expect that to continue in the bowl game. If UC can protect Brendon Kay from the UNC pass rush and contain QB Marquise Williams, the Bearcats will be in good shape.
DM: Based on the stat sheet alone, both the Bearcats and Tar Heels appear to be very similar teams. However, the strength of schedule of the Tar Heels and the outcome against Top 25 opponents is what concerns me the most. Although UNC has lost to all three of the Top 25 opponents they have played, only one of the losses came in at double digits. The other two losses against #10 Miami and #24 Duke were by 4 and 2 points, respectively. Despite their 4-4 record, this team is no slump when it comes to meaningful match ups. Look for the Tar Heels to come out slinging early to take advantage of the Bearcats spotty secondary. However, despite it being essentially a home game for the Tar Heels, look for the Bearcats to remain undefeated in Belk Bowl play. 31-24 Bearcats in another nail-biter.
ST: I like the ‘Cats in this one. I don’t wanna keep referring to the 2012 Belk Bowl, because these Tar Heels are not a Blue Devil copy, but I think UC will pull it out, much like last season. Brendon Kay is finally getting the goodbye he deserves, and I can see him doing very well against a defense that hasn’t been able to shut down some of the better QBs they faced this year. I think it’ll be a battle, but Cincinnati will win 34-24.
TP: I took a shot in the dark last time, so I will try to have a more conservative prediction this time: 28-21 ‘Cats. Look for UC to struggle a little bit early, then pick it up in the second half. NC will try to mount a comeback, but the Bearcats with their usual “bend but don’t break” mentality will pull it off in the end.
CB: There will be quite a bit of offense in this game but not as much as Cincinnati’s last go-around in the Belk Bowl. I’d expect a low-scoring second half with most of the points coming after halftime. Ultimately, though, I see the Bearcats coming out on top by a touchdown, let’s say 35-28.