By Zach Walker
Cincinnati Bearcats vs North Carolina Tar Heels
Saturday – December 28 – 2:20 PM
Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte
How did they get here?
Cincinnati got nailed early with an injury to starting quarterback Munchie Legaux in the second game of the season, but backup Brendon Kay has carried the team like a champion and only lost two games by a one score margin. North Carolina started about as poorly as is possible, winning only one of their first six games, but an impressive late season surge winning five of their final six, losing only to the 10 win Duke Blue Devils on the final game of the season.
How can they win?
Cincinnati: Brendon Kay has to continue to roll. For a backup quarterback, Kay has played at an unbelievably consistent level for the Bearcats. Kay has thrown for 3,121 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games in relief of Legaux. But the Bearcats have a thick run staple to vent some pressure off of Kay. Against the Mustangs earlier this season, they used an almost seemingly constant run game to erode the clock out from under SMU. As a team, the Bearcats have over 1,800 yards over their top 5 rushers. Hosey Williams, Tion Green, and Ralph Abernathy do most of the damage, but when the yards get tight and necessary, the Bearcats put in their 6’3″ 240 pound sledgehammer, fullback Jordan Luallen, who has 47 carries for 220 yards and three touchdowns. The Bearcats have a force of a defense, ranking fifth in run defense, and ninth overall.
North Carolina: The game is all about major danger, dual threat quarterback Marquise Williams, who has played a tiring football, usually throwing about 28 times a game, while rushing the ball about 15 times. The Tar Heels averaged over 200 yards over their last four games of the season. But when the ball isn’t on the ground, it’s being thrown into the arms of tight end Eric Ebron, who I’ve seen on a few NFL mock drafts as a first round tight end. At 6’4″ and 245 pounds, Ebron having 895 yards, that’s NFL talent. For the Tar Heels defense, defensive end Kareem Martin has been a typhoon, racking up 11 sacks and 20 tackles for loss.
Prediction: Nice for North Carolina to be playing in North Carolina, home field is a three point boost, and in a game that could have 50 plus runs between the two teams, three points might just be the key. But I’ll take Cincinnati 23 – North Carolina 20.