Here are three keys for North Carolina heading into the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against Tennessee:
1. Fluster Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray. He’s a big reason the Vols rode a four-game winning streak into the postseason, and he’s got a lot of poise for a true freshman. He does a good job of picking up pressure and eluding it. He gets good protection, so the Tar Heels will have to get off their blocks and win the battle up front. Quinton Coples has the ability to do that.
2. Good decisions by UNC quarterback T.J. Yates. His experience could be the difference in the game, and with the Tar Heels so thin at tailback, the passing game will once again be heavily depended upon. When Yates is on, he’s on, but when he’s off, you have the Virginia Tech game (four picks). UT has limited opponents to fewer than 250 yards passing in three of the last five games, and after recording only 10 sacks in the first eight games, the Vols have had 13 sacks in the last four.
3. Lockdown on third downs. After struggling to convert on third downs in the first four games of the season, the Vols greatly improved their conversion rate in the final eight games. Tennessee converted only 11-of-58 (19.0 percent) on third-down attempts in the first four games, but the Vols are 52-of-115 (45.2 percent) on third downs in the eight games since. UNC opponents have converted 40 percent of their third downs this season.