The North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4) will travel to El Paso, Texas to take on Stanford Cardinal (9-3) in the Sun Bowl on December 30. North Carolina finished second in the ACC Coastal division while Stanford’s record landed them in third place of the Pac 12 North.
Stanford and North Carolina both had high hopes coming into the 2016 season following impressive 2015 campaigns. The preseason AP Poll had Stanford sitting at #8 in the country following a blowout of Iowa in last year’s Rose Bowl. North Carolina came into the season at #22 after falling to a high-powered Baylor squad 49-38. The Sun Bowl is going to be an excellent opportunity for both programs to display their weapons.
North Carolina will look to throw the ball with NFL prospect Mitch Trubisky, who has surprised analysts all season. He is projected in some mock drafts to go in the top 5 in 2017. He’ll look to air the ball out to his favorite receiver, Ryan Switzer, who has amassed over 1,000 receiving yards this season. The duo of T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood has rumbled for over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, the Tar Heels will need to find a way to stop Christian McCaffery, who finished second in last year’s Heisman Trophy voting. The run defense for North Carolina has been less than stellar all season finishing 113th overall in the FBS allowing 235 yards per game on the ground.
The Tar Heels are coming off of a disappointing loss to N.C. State, and need to get back in the win column to cap off this surprising season. Their other two losses on the schedule came to eventual Coastal division champion Virginia Tech in week six and to Georgia in week one. Stanford is riding a five-game winning streak into the sun bowl, and the Cardinal looks to capitalize on that momentum going into the Sun Bowl.
North Carolina has more versatile weapons, but McCaffery could nullify anything the Tar Heels do on offense. Look for Stanford to grind out large chunks of time on each possession and force North Carolina to stop the run game. North Carolina may have to utilize the dynamic duo of Logan and Hood to force Stanford to bring an extra defender or two into the box. If they are successful, it will make Trubisky’s day much easier in the pocket. This game very well could come down to who has the ball on the last possession, and if that’s the case, there’s not many quarterbacks in the country who I would rather have under center than Mitch Trubinsky. If he has the ball in the two-minute drill, there’s a good chance he will put together a game-winning drive and solidify himself a spot at the top of the 2017 draft.