Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6 SU, 6-5-1 ATS)
College Football Belk Bowl
Date and Time: Saturday December 28th, 2013. 3:20PM Eastern
Where: Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cincy -3/UNC +3
Over/Under Total: 56.5
The 12th edition of the Belk Bowl will take place inside Bank of America
Stadium on December 28th when the Cincinnati Bearcats meet
the North Carolina Tar Heels for postseason bragging rights.
For the Bearcats, this will be their 2nd straight trip to the Belk Bowl
following a 9-3 SU regular season. Cincinnati defeated Duke 48-34 in last
season’s Belk Bowl and will be seeking similar results again this year.
The Bearcats have the opportunity to reach 10 wins for the 5th consecutive year and also capture their 3rd straight bowl trophy with a victory over the Tar Heels. However North Carolina will be playing in their home state and will be riding a lot of momentum into Bank of America Stadium. The Tar Heels rallied from a 1-5 SU start this season to win 5 of their final 6 games to earn their postseason bid. Coach Larry Fedora worked out some of the offensive kinks that held the team back during the first half of the season which quickly turned things around. The Tar Heels posted 40.8 points on average over each of their final 6 games and took on the identity of a completely different and vastly improved football team.
Ironically it was the loss of quarterback Bryn Renner that started the changes on the offensive side of the ball. After the senior quarterback went down with a season ending shoulder injury, the offense handed the reigns over to sophomore Marquise Williams. Williams revamped the Tar Heels sluggish offense with his dual threat capability and opened up the playbook for coach Fedora. Despite just 4 starts, Williams led the Tar Heels in rushing with 490 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. The sophomore quarterback was able to add 1,527 yards through the air along with 14 touchdowns and 6 picks. The rejuvenated North Carolina offense has become extremely dangerous with Williams behind center and much more efficient. The Tar Heels momentum on the offensive side of the ball is the biggest reason they are currently listed as small 3 points dogs against the Bearcats despite their uninspiring 6-6 record on the season.
In fact even on paper, the Tar Heels should be bigger underdogs if you compare the statistics and trends. The Bearcats also closed out the season strong winning 6 of their last 7 games. The Bearcats only loss during that stretch was a 31-24 overtime heartbreaker to no. 19 Louisville. Not only was Cincinnati extremely impressive on the offensive side of the ball averaging 34 points in their last 7 games but they were equally impressive on the defensive side of the football yielding just 19 points per game during that stretch. In fact the Cincinnati defense finished the season as the 12th best scoring defense in college football. The Bearcats defense has not given up more than 25 points in any of their wins this year and it will be interesting to see if they can continue to play well against the surging North Carolina offense.
As far as the offense is concerned, coach Tommy Tuberville has installed a spread offense similar to his former groups at Texas Tech. The bulk of the responsibilities fall on the arm of quarterback Brendon Kay. Kay has been fairly solid this season hitting 69% of his passes for 3,121 yards with 22 scores and 11 picks. The Bearcats have plenty of talent in the receiving corps as well. Receivers Chris Moore and Mekale McKay have combined for 16 touchdowns while Anthony McClung leads the team with 904 receiving yards. I truly believe the biggest match-up in this game will be these big and talented Cincinnati receivers and how well they stack up against the North Carolina secondary. The winner of that battle likely wins the game.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I expect a close outcome in this game. I believe both offenses have figured out ways to be flexible and do what is necessary to score points against solid defenses. I think this could easily be a back and forth game between the offenses with just a few big plays separating the difference. Take the safe play here which is the over 56.5, good luck!
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