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College Bowl Predictions: Pitt vs. UNC Preview

Meineke Car Care Bowl – Pittsburgh Panthers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

College Football Point Spread: Pittsburgh -2.5

Pittsburgh: The Week That Was

The Panthers had their guts punched on Dec. 5 at Heinz Field. Playing on home turf in the Steel City, coach Dave Wannstedt’s boys endured a crushing 45-44 loss to Cincinnati, falling just short of a Big East championship and a trip to the Sugar Bowl.

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Pittsburgh accumulated a 31-10 lead in the second quarter, the product of complete domination against a shell-shocked Cincy squad. With running back Dion Lewis going wild against Cincinnati – the fabulous freshman rolled for 194 yards on 47 carries – the Panthers should have been in prime position to protect a 21-point lead. Yet, after botching an extra point with 1:36 remaining, Pitt watched the Bearcats score a touchdown with 33 seconds left, followed by a winning extra point kick.

North Carolina: The Week That Was

The Tar Heels weren’t playing for a conference title, but coach Butch Davis saw his team suffer a season-ending defeat that was considerably painful in its own right. UNC dropped its third consecutive contest against rival North Carolina State, 28-27.

It’s never fun to lose an in-state showdown, but what has to sting North Carolina partisans is the fact that the Tar Heels were facing one of North Carolina State’s weaker ballclubs. The woeful Wolfpack entered the Nov. 28 game with a 4-7 record, thanks to a consistently toothless defence. However, quarterback T.J. Yates and the rest of the Carolina offense were shut out in the final 22 minutes. Such a miserable showing against a weak opponent ultimately caught up with UNC.

The Week That Is:

As Dave Wannstedt and Butch Davis – former colleagues as assistant coaches with both the Miami Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys – reunite in Charlotte this Saturday, the big question concerns the motivation levels of the two teams, particularly the Panthers.

Pittsburgh has a better club, without much question; no one on North Carolina can match Dion Lewis as a runner, and the Tar Heels can’t equal the receiving skills of Pitt wideout Jonathan Baldwin. If Pittsburgh plays with passion, Carolina won’t be able to keep up.

Ah, but that’s where predicting this game becomes tricky. Pittsburgh had no business losing to Cincinnati three weeks ago…not after gaining an early 21-point lead. The Panthers often slip on the banana peel in big moments, and their lack of mental toughness is their biggest fundamental weakness. Will it come into play in this game? It easily could.

Ultimately, though, the verdict is that a team with its eyes on the 2010 Big East title (Pitt will be a strong favourite) will begin the push for next season. Wannstedt will get his team to focus, and North Carolina will fall short as a result.

College Bowl Predictions: Pittsburgh -2.5

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