Meineke Car Care Bowl: UNC (8-4) vs. West Virginia (8-4)
Dec. 27, 1 p.m., (ESPN)
North Carolina take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: North Carolina couldn't get much closer to home for the holidays, and it's exactly what executive director Will Webb was hoping for. The Tar Heels will face a West Virginia team that finished third in the Big East and hasn't scored more than 15 points in its past two games. Still, shifty quarterback Pat White will present challenges for the Tar Heels' defense. White is 81 rushing yards shy of his third straight 1,000-yard season. He'll be throwing into a defense that has 19 interceptions this season. UNC's top priority will be stopping the run, as West Virginia averages a conference-best 217.2 yards per game.
The Tar Heels have had an inconsistent season, which was a product of its inconsistent offense. Butch Davis switched quarterbacks after a 17-15 loss to Maryland, but starter T.J. Yates, who was injured for half of the season, didn't look like himself until the season finale against Duke. The Mountaineers have the best scoring defense in the Big East, holding opponents to 15.9 points per game. UNC will need a strong performance from tailbacks Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston in order to open up the passing game for standout receiver Hakeem Nicks, who leads the ACC with 83.8 yards per game.
West Virginia take by Big East blogger Brian Bennett: For the first time since 2002, West Virginia won't play in a New Year's Day or a BCS bowl. But the Mountaineers are in the familiar position of trying to salvage a little Big East pride against North Carolina. The Tar Heels hammered both Connecticut and Rutgers earlier this season.
Though the game is within easy driving distance for its fans, West Virginia will basically be playing on the road in Charlotte. More importantly, the Mountaineers will have to recapture their previous offensive magic after totaling just 28 points in its final two games. They'll have to do so against an athletic North Carolina defense that held down Georgia Tech's triple-option rushing attack in a 28-7 win earlier this season. But never count out quarterback Pat White, who will try to cap his outstanding college career by finishing 4-0 in bowls.
It's been a disappointing season in many ways for the Mountaineers under first-year head coach Bill Stewart. Even the ever-optimistic Stewart admitted Saturday night that he's "not a happy camper" with the 8-4 record from a team that was picked to win the Big East. A bowl victory would go a long way toward easing some of the disappointment.