NCF Nation: West Virginia Mountaine
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Good morning ACC fans. The conference has three bowl games coming up on Dec. 27, and I've got a few things to help preview the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Champs Sports Bowl and the Emerald Bowl. Let's start with UNC today.
Here are three reasons why UNC will beat West Virginia:
1. Home crowd. It's UNC's first bowl game since 2004, and Tar Heel fans are eager to see it. UNC sold its allotment of 22,000 tickets and expect more than 40,000 UNC fans at Bank of America Stadium. The Tar Heels are 15-3-2 in Charlotte. Defensive coordinator Everett Withers was born in Charlotte, and six current players are either from Charlotte or the surrounding area. Consider this a home game.
2. Butch Davis and his top playmaker, receiver Hakeem Nicks. The veteran coach will have his players prepared, and they should have some confidence from beating Big East opponents Rutgers and Connecticut during the regular season. Many have wondered how UNC will stop WVU's top two playmakers, but the Tar Heels have their own offensive threat in Nicks. He has already set the school single-season record for receiving yards (60 receptions for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns).
3. Non-offensive touchdowns. If the offense can't get it going, defense and special teams can. The Tar Heels have scored on four interception returns, one punt return and one blocked punt recovery in the end zone. Safety Trimane Goddard is tied for the national lead with seven interceptions this season, and UNC is eight in the nation with 19.
Here are three reasons why they won't:
1. Quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Devine. The Mountaineers' shifty quarterback has accounted for 83.5 rushing yards per game, and is 35th nationally in passing efficiency with a 135.64 rating. He will be playing his final college game. West Virginia has the nation's No. 12-ranked rushing offense with 217.17 yards per game, and Devine is at the heart of the Mountaineers' running game. He is ranked 22nd nationally with 102.3 rushing yards per game. UNC is allowing 140.75 rushing yards per game.
2. West Virginia's bowl experience. The Mountaineers have been to seven straight bowls and are riding a three-game bowl win streak, including a 38-35 win over Georgia Tech in the January, 2007 Gator Bowl. It's only North Carolina's second bowl since 2001 and first since 2004. Only Goddard has ever played in a bowl game.
3. West Virginia's defense. The Mountaineers lead the Big East and are 12th in the nation in turnover margin, and they're ninth in the country in scoring defense at 16 points per game. They've also got the No. 1-ranked red zone defense in the country.