Meineke Car Care Bowl: Can UNC Pounce on a Down Pitt Panther Team?

The ACC and SEC BlogSenior Analyst IDecember 23, 2009

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 05: Head coach Dave Wannstedt of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers watches his team against the Cincinnati Bearcats on December 5, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Sorry I have been out so long.  Work has been busy, been sick, life called, etc.  Anyways onto the bowl games.

First up for the ACC is the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Saturday when North Carolina takes on Pitt.

The Tar Heels are playing in Charlotte for the second straight season, after losing a nail biter to West Virginia last year.  The Heels were surging towards the end of the season until a stumble at NC State in their last game.

Stumble might not be the right word for Pitt's end to the season; more like collapse.  The Panthers lost to their rivals West Virginia, and the next week let a big first half lead and late six point lead slip away with under two minutes to go against undefeated Cincinnati.

If you watched the game, you saw the Pitt players sitting in the tunnel with their heads hung afterwards.

Lots of times bowl games are about who is the more motivated team.  All of these teams have talent and are capable of beating teams with winning records.

But you have seniors and juniors looking to the NFL draft, teams coming off wins or losses against rivals, championships won or lost, and the feeling of disappointment if you are selected to a a lower tier bowl.  All of these apply in this match-up.

Does Pitt want to be in Charlotte?

They were two minutes from a BCS Bowl at home against an undefeated team and let it slip away.  Plus, they lost to their rival the week before.  What does this game mean to them?

I think this is an important game for the Pitt program who is at a cross roads right now.  They have returned to Big East prominence after years of toiling in the middle of the pack.

To win this bowl game is a chance for 10 wins and momentum going into next season when they will have one of the best backs in the nation in Dion Lewis.

Can North Carolina stop Pitt's rushing attack?

This is a battle of strength on strength as Pitt's 29th ranked rushing offense goes up against UNC's 9th ranked rush defense.  Line of scrimmage determines a lot of games.

Who wins the turnover battle?

Both teams are positive in turnover margin for the season with Pitt ranking 12th nationally at plus 0.75 per game.  The Panthers only have two fumbles on the season.  UNC ranks 69th in fumbles gained.  Turnovers will be critical in a game of evenly matched opponents.

The stats say Pitt has the better team, but I really question Pitt's desire to be at this bowl game.  They can talk the talk, but very few teams walk the walk after such a disappointing end.

UNC will have a clear home crowd advantage too, being so close to Charlotte.  If Pitt pulls this one off, even though they are favored, I will be very impressed with Dave Wannstedt's ability to have his team rebound.  I like the Tar Heels but only put five of the 34 possible points on it.

North Carolina 28 Pitt 14