- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Meineke Car Care Bowl: Pittsburgh (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4):
Dec. 26, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Talk about your long fall down. Pittsburgh was a missed extra point away from winning the Big East and making the Sugar Bowl. Instead, the Panthers find themselves playing in Charlotte against a middle-of-the-pack ACC team.
Once Pitt gets over the disappointment, it should realize it still has the opportunity to win 10 games for the first time in more than a quarter of a century. But first it will have to beat a Tar Heels team that will be on home turf and matches up well in many areas.
The Pittsburgh game plan will revolve around true freshman running back Dion Lewis -- assuming Lewis can still walk after his 47-carry performance against Cincinnati. North Carolina, though, ranks ninth nationally against the run and has the No. 6-ranked overall defense in America.
Pitt has a lot more weapons offensively than the often-anemic Tar Heels, however, with receivers Jonathan Baldwin and tight end Dorin Dickerson. The game could come down to how Bill Stull plays; the senior quarterback was terrific most of the year but threw costly interceptions against West Virginia and Cincinnati in losses the past two weeks.
There shouldn't be many secrets in this game. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and North Carolina coach Butch Davis go way back and were defensive assistants together at Oklahoma State, Miami and the Dallas Cowboys under Jimmy Johnson.