Match-up: North Carolina (ACC) vs. Baylor (Big 12)
Spread: Baylor (-2)
Location: Florida Citrus Bowl. Orlando, FL
When: Tuesday, December 29th, 5:00 PM
Where to Watch: ESPN
North Carolina Overview
After finishing a dismal 6-7 last season, 2015 was a much different year for the Tar Heels, in a really, really, good way. Larry Fedora led his team to 11 wins and a perfect 8-0 record in the Coastal division of the ACC before losing in a shootout 45-37 to #1 Clemson in the title game. This Heels offense, led by dynamic quarterback Marquise Williams, is one of the most explosive offenses in college football, in which they were inside the top 20 in total offense and red zone offense. They can beat you through the air and on the ground, and their defense was much improved under first year coordinator Gene Chizik. This is a complete football team that doesn’t get near the credit it deserves.
Players to Watch:
Marquise Williams (QB): A true duel-threat at the position, Williams excelled in 2015 in which he threw for over 2,800 yards and ran for another 867. With the speed and agility to beat you with his legs and the arm to beat you through the air, Williams and this Heels offense is one of the most difficult matchups in the country. The Baylor defense will have their hands full trying to stop this offensive juggernaut led by Williams.
Elijah Hood (RB): A big and physical back (6 foot, 220 pounds) Hood is a bruiser that can absolutely wear an opposing defense down for quarters. His toughness and physicality is as good as it gets, and his 1,300 rushing yards and 6 yards per carry back that. If Baylor struggles agains the pass, Hood will destroy them on the ground. All game long.
How UNC Can Win
Score, score, and score some more. The Baylor offense is banged up, with sophomore Chris Johnson likely getting another start. The more pressure UNC can put on Baylor to score with an inexperienced quarterback that is turnover prone, the better chance they will have to win this game. UNC should want this game to be in the 40’s, minimum.
What a season it’s been for the Baylor Bears. After being on cruise control for the first eight weeks of the season due to a backloaded schedule in the Big 12, the Bears were in the thick of the college football playoff race for the majority of the season, with some analysts predicting the Bears would be the team to win the Big 12 conference and represent it in the college football playoff. But after a devastating neck injury to starting quarterback Seth Russell, as expected, the offense was never quite the same. True freshman Jarett Stidham stepped in and performed nicely by beating the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater to end their perfect season, but a costly loss to Oklahoma at home proved to be too much for the Bears to overcome. Then Stidham went down with a fractured ankle, ending his season. The Bears have since been with third stringer Chris Johnson, who has had his ups and downs. An interesting, yet unexpected year for Art Briles and company.
Players to Watch
Shock Linwood (WR): The electrifying tailback can take it all the way at any given time, and when this offense is rolling, it has a lot to do with Linwood. The Bears love to pass, but their first priority is to get the ground game going with Linwood. If the Heels can’t stop Linwood, the Bears will have a field day.
Corey Coleman and KD Cannon (WR’s): Both of these speedsters run a sub 4.3-4.4 40-yard dash, and they have burned defenses all season long with their big play abilities. Coleman gets most of the publicity, as he should. His 20 receiving touchdowns were far and away the best in college football, and he earned the Biletnikoff Award for being the most outstanding wide receiver in college football. Don’t let KD Cannon sneak up on you, though. Cannon is another explosive playmaker that has taken a lot of pressure off Coleman this year by making defenses pay special attention to him too. The bottom line: Both of these guys will have a huge impact on this Russell Athletic Bowl.
How Baylor Can Win
I think Baylor’s defense will have to play its best game of the season, and it starts with that physical defensive line led by All-American defensive tackle Andrew Billings, and defensive end Shawn Oakman. Both of these monsters will have to pressure Marquise Williams early and often and win their battles at the line of scrimmage to slow down the Heels offense. If they can, Baylor can certainly win this game.
Final Score Prediction: UNC wins 48-45.
Photo Credits: http://origin.sportsonearth.com/article/154764590/baylor-beats-west-virginia-corey-coleman
Christian Reilly- @CReillyTV