Belk Bowl preview: Cincinnati vs. UNC
Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2 AAC) vs. North Carolina (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
December 28, 3:20 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Cincinnati Players to Watch:
Brendon Kay, QB—The sixth-year senior has been a little more careless with the football this year, but you can attribute that to him playing through a massive amount of injuries. Kay is one hell of a tough quarterback and knows Tommy Tuberville's multiple offense very well.
Silverberry Mouhon, DL—With an impressive 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame, Mouhon leads the team with 9.5 sacks (four in the final three games). The sophomore has been a quarterback’s nightmare, seemingly always creating pressure and collapsing the pocket.
North Carolina Players to Watch:
Eric Ebron, TE—Ebron will be a first-round pick in May’s NFL draft for his pure athleticism alone. The Mackey Award finalist caught 55 balls for 895 yards—both led the ACC for tight ends—and three touchdowns this season.
Quinshad Davis, WR—What makes Davis so dangerous is his teammate, Ebron. Both help each other get open and both are deep ball threats. Davis finished the regular season with 47 receptions for 724 yards and a team-leading 10 touchdowns.
Cincinnati Key to Victory:
Win the battle for time of possession. Cincinnati is 7-0 when holding onto the ball longer than its opponent and 2-3 otherwise. The Bearcats need to do what they do best: Establish the intermediate passing game and find stability on the ground between its backfield committee. At one point late in the season, Brendon Kay led the country in completion percentage due to his ability to find success in the short passing game and move the chains on third down. He’ll need to continue to do so in order to keep North Carolina’s big-play offense off the field.
North Carina Key to Victory:
Continue to make explosive plays. Between the dual-threat abilities of quarterback Marquise Williams, Eric Ebron’s capability to create space up the seam and freshman Ryan Switzer’s playmaking skills in the return game (four punt return touchdowns), the Tar Heels are a threat to find the end zone from any spot on the field. Cincinnati has a top-10 defense (on paper), but it’s not like it has been perfect on every down, especially on special teams.
Line: North Carolina (-2.5)
Prediction: UNC showed a lot of heart by winning five of its final six games to become bowl eligible, but its best win came against Boston College. Cincinnati lost to Illinois and South Florida. Neither team has what you would call a marquee win, but the Bearcats were competitive against Louisville (lost 31-24 in OT) and the Tar Heels lost to South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.) and Duke by an average of 8.3 points. It’s going to be close and could go either way, but I’ll give Cincinnati the push for its ability to control the clock.
Cincinnati 29, North Carolina 26
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