Meineke Car Care Bowl
North Carolina vs West Virginia
Saturday 1PM ESPN
Line: West Virginia -1.5
This game should shape up to be one of the best during the bowl season with Pat White leading West Virginia for the last time. White is 3-0 in bowl games during his career as a Mountaineer and will leave Morgantown as the NCAA's all time leading rusher at the Quarterback position. But the Tar Heels will try to spoil White's farewell behind a partisan crowd in Charlotte.
Keys to the Game:
1. Slowing the Option
North Carolina has already played an option team this year and beat Georgia Tech soundly in early November. Although West Virginia's version is different, many of the same principles apply in stopping it. The Mountaineers have struggled on offense their last two scoring just 15 against Pitt and 13 against South Florida. If you slow Pat White, then you slow West Virginia.
The Mountaineers have done a very good job this year of holding onto the ball. UNC's biggest downfall down the stretch was turnovers. The Heels turned it over 6 times against the Wolfpack in a 41-10 thrashing. North Carolina's offense needs to generate turnovers from their opponents to put points on the board because they average just 317 yards of offense and give up close to 360 with their defense.
Bill Stewart is 1-0 as a head coach in bowl games. But that Fiesta Bowl win last year was mainly on emotion. Stewart has really struggled in big coaching spots this year. Stewart even called North Carolina a tougher opponent than Oklahoma. Really? North Carolina's Butch Davis is an average game day coach, but he did pretty well in big ball games at Miami and I would take just about anyone over Stewart in a big spot. Which is sad because I have really enjoyed watching Pat White these last 4 years.
West Virginia's spirits may be a little down playing in Charlotte after the New Years Bowls they have played in the last 3 years, but I think wanting to send Pat White out a winner is a big boost for their morale. North Carolina will be helped out by a large Tar Heel contingent in Charlotte. And with such a young team they can use this a springboard to a 2009 season.
I think UNC's experience against the option will come in very handy. I think the Tar Heels get a key turnover late and seal the win with a short scoring drive.
North Carolina 23 West Virginia 21
Check out Pat White Highlights from You Tube
Confidence Ranking (of 34): 7
My confidence ranking of the 34 bowl games for a North Carolina win.
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