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Meinke Car Care Bowl

North Carolina vs Pittsburgh

12/26/09

Pittsburgh was not able to finish their season like they would have hoped. With two games left they were 9-1 and had dreams of a Big East Title and a BCS bowl berth, but after losing back to back games to West Virginia and Cincinnati they find themselves playing in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.


This might not have been the ideal situation but this is where Coach Dave Wannstedt has his team positioned, and with a young group of players a bowl win over a very good ACC opponent in North Carolina could really help build for the future. Coach Butch Davis and his Tar Heels also did not finish the year like they had hoped. It looked like Davis had the right talent to make a real run at an ACC title this year, but it just didn’t come together like they had hoped.


They were on a 4 game win streak when they dropped their season closing game against instate rival North Carolina State. The good news is Davis will continue to recruit nationally and get great talent, and much like with Pittsburgh a win in this bowl game will really help build momentum for the future.

PRIMETIME MATCHUP

Anyone who watched Pittsburgh’s last game against Cincinnati knows exactly what the Panthers want to do as an offense, and it starts and ends with Dion Lewis. He was a workhorse for Pittsburgh carrying the ball 47 times for 194 yards and 3 TD. Being able to run the ball effectively like that is the reason why QB Bill Stull has had such a successful season this year. The Panthers average 185 yards a game on the ground, but the Tar Heel’s defense is ranked 1st in the ACC in rush defense only allowing 93 yards per game, so something’s got to give.


Pittsburgh has had a lot of success all season with setting up the play action pass with Lewis, and once they soften up that defense QB Bill Stull beats you over the top with WR Jonathan Baldwin. Baldwin averages 4 catches a game, but when they throw his way he stretches the field averaging 20 yards per catch. That deep passing attack all starts with Lewis, so for UNC to have a chance in this game LB Quan Sturdivant and DE Robert Quinn are going to have to have a big game and stop Dion Lewis from having a big day.

THE FINAL VERDICT

The real question when trying to figure out this game is which Pittsburgh team is going to show up? Is it the team that was one game away from a Big East Title or will Pittsburgh fall victim to the trap that Oregon State did, and pack it in early and move on to next season?


With Pittsburgh’s opponent being a solid North Carolina team we expect them to come ready to play and get the win, but if they don’t the Tar Heel’s will come away with the win. This is a perfect example of a game that should be won in the trenches.


Whoever is able to win the battle between Pittsburgh’s rushing attack vs. North Carolina’s front seven will have the upper hand in this contest. We have a lot of respect for what this UNC defense especially their front seven, but after what we saw from RB Dion Lewis against Cincinnati we have to give the Panthers the upper hand. Expect Pittsburgh to set up the pass with Lewis running the ball, and then get the ball down the field vertically with Jonathan Baldwin.

Also keep in mind, the further along we get in these Bowl games, we are going to start seeing better defensive teams. Generally, with the early bowls, it's a good idea to take a look at the overs. But here we have two teams that have each held 7 or 8 opponents to 20 points or less.

So we'll take Pitt here -1.5 and we'll also lean towards the Under 45.5 despite Pitt's season ending shootout with Cinci.


 

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