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The Belk Bowl: North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/28/13

Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) at North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6)

College Football: Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 3:20 pm (Bank of America Stadium)

The Line: North Carolina Tar Heels -2 -- Over/Under: 54 See the Latest Odds

TV: ESPN

Storyline: Cincinnati is after its third consecutive ten win season while North Carolina looks to top off a strong finish with a winning record when the two meet up in the Belk Bowl Saturday.

The Breakdown: The Bearcats had absolutely no drop off in head coach Tommy Tuberville’s first year at the helm, ending the season with a record of 10-3 after reaching the same mark in each of the past two seasons. After opening with victories in three of its first four, Cincinnati handed South Florida one of its only two wins on the season before rattling off six straight heading into the finale and the newly-formed American Athletic Conference’s game of the year against then 19th-ranked Louisville. The Bearcats rallied to tie the game with seven seconds left in regulation, but came up just short and lost 31-24 in overtime.

The Belk Bowl: North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/28/13

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati comes in with the FBS’s 15th-ranked passing game at 313.8 yards per outing and its 39th-ranked scoring offense with 33.3 points a game. The Bearcats are led by senior QB Brendon Kay (3,121 YDs, 22 TDs, 11 INTs), who inherited the starting job in week 2 when senior Munchie Legaux went down with an injury. After a shaky first few starts, Kay ended the season strong, throwing for over 300 yards in five of his final six outings and becoming one of just four quarterbacks in school history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season. Kay is joined by standout senior WR Anthony McClung (68 REC, 908 YDs, 5 TDs) and junior RBs Hosey Williams and Ralph Abernathy, who combined for 1,060 yards and 8 TDs. On the defensive side, Cincinnati brings the nation’s 12th best scoring defense, allowing a mere 19.5 points per contest.

North Carolina, meanwhile, traversed a bumpier path to the Belk Bowl.  After dropping their opener 27-10 to then #6 South Carolina, the Tarheels would lose four of their next five before rebounding with a five-game winning streak that included late rallies against Pitt and NC State, and a basketball-like 80-20 dismantling of Old Dominion. Things ended on a bitter note, though, with a 27-25 loss to Duke in the season finale’s waning moments.

Much like Cincinnati, North Carolina underwent a change at the quarterback position after senior Bryn Renner went out with a shoulder injury in week 9. Sophomore Maquise Williams (1,527, 14 TDs, 6 INTs) came on in relief and hardly missed a beat, leading the Tarheels to 4 wins as the starter and topping the team in rushing with 490 yards and 6 touchdowns. North Carolina also brings one of the country’s best tight ends in junior Eric Ebron (55 REC, 895 YDs, 3 TDs), a finalist for the Mackey Award given to the nation’s best TE. On the defensive side, the Tarheels rank 52nd in scoring defense, allowing 25.1 points per contest.

Rick’s Pick: The line in this matchup is currently set at -2 for N. Carolina with a 54 point total, a bit of a head-scratcher. Cincinnati’s proven to be a pretty high-flying bunch, ranking above the Tarheels in scoring, passing, and even rushing yards. The game is in Charlotte, though, so apparently the oddsmakers are hinging everything on that. At any rate, these two average a collective 65 plus points per game so the over looks like the safer play.

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Over 54

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