WHO: No. 18 Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4)
WHAT: The 83rd Sun Bowl
WHEN: December 30, 2 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
THE SKINNY: One of the oldest bowl games in the country will be ground zero for NFL scouts in late December as Stanford’s star tailback Christian McCaffrey closes out his career on the Farm facing off against one of the most buzz-worthy names in scouting circles in UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
For the Cardinal, a trip to El Paso isn’t exactly how they imagined where they’d wind up in the postseason after being picked to win the Pac-12 for the first time in school history. They bounced back from several early season losses to get to a still-impressive nine wins and did so using a familiar formula in paving the way for McCaffrey to do his thing on the ground and through the air. The Stanford defense also closed the season strong behind stud defensive end Solomon Thomas.
North Carolina didn’t end the season on a high note however, sandwiching a win over an FCS opponent between two losses to rival schools in the Triangle. The Tar Heels are still one of the more entertaining teams in the country and led by their dangerous triumvirate on offense in ace receiver/return man Ryan Switzer, tailback Elijah Hood and Trubisky. All three are a load to handle and should be fun to watch together one last time. While coordinator Gene Chizik has done a solid job turning around the UNC defense, this year’s unit isn’t quite as stout against the run and is allowing 236 yards per game.
That’s not a formula for success against a Stanford team that loves to pound opponents between the tackles. The latest edition of the Sun Bowl should be a fairly high scoring one given some of the offensive firepower involved on both sides but in the end, McCaffrey and the Cardinal take home the victory.
THE PREDICTION: Stanford 38, North Carolina 28