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Sun Bowl Pick

North Carolina




On the surface, the Sun Bowl features two solid teams, but no one knows exactly what to expect from them. Stanford comes in with a 9-3 record and has won five straight while UNC is at 8-4, having lost two of its last three. With the Pac-12 winning the last three Sun Bowl's against ACC opposition, the Cardinal are -3 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the game in El Paso.

Stanford was looking set to be another Pac-12 and national title contender after three early wins, but better competition figured them out. That led to three losses in four games with the Cardinal only scoring a combined 27 points in the losses. And while they closed the season with five-straight wins, none of those came against a bowl team so while they're are on a run, it doesn't mean as much against weaker opponents.

North Carolina had a weird season, getting wins over Pitt and Florida State in back-to-back weeks and then getting blown out by Virginia Tech the next game. The Tar Heels came back with wins over Miami and Georgia Tech, but then faltered against Duke and NC State in their final two ACC games. This team failed to show up at a consistent rate, but it's hard to see them not coming to play against Stanford.

The biggest advantage in this game was Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, who is on his way to the NFL. McCaffrey made the decision not to play in this bowl in order to prep for the draft, which has to be a bummer for all involved with this team. Sophomore Bryce Love should see a lot of work now and still provides quality, having went for 129 yards and a touchdown in the win against Notre Dame earlier this season. Still, the loss of McCaffrey is huge for this offense as he did it all.

A boost for the offense has been quarterback Keller Chryst, who replaced Ryan Burns in the final five games. Of course, none of the opponents were good, but he did enough with 9 TDs and only 1 INT to lead the way for blowouts.

UNC's immediate problem is that they are one of the worst in the nation at stopping the run, allowing more than 235 yards per game on the ground. But without McCaffrey, that may not be as big of an issue.

Offensively, junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky still hadn't decided on his NFL fate in mid-December so it's a wonder if a good game here will sway his decision. Trubisky has had an incredible season, completing 68.9% of his passes for 28 touchdowns and only four picks. Those four picks came in two games, both losses. With experienced receivers around him like Ryan Switzer (1,027 yards, 5 TDs) and Bug Howard (768 yards, 7 TDs), he has the weapons to score on this Stanford defense. The Cardinal have a good defense, but it's not completely limiting opponents and already gave up 31 points to a similar Cal offense a couple games ago.

The Cardinal have covered in their last four against the ACC and are 6-1 ATS in their last seven bowl games. The Tar Heels are 4-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and haven't covered in their last five neutral-site games.

Our Pick - North Carolina +3

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