Bowl season officially started last Saturday, and Stanford is under two weeks from playing in their bowl game. The Sun Bowl was not the game Cardinal fans expected to play in to end the year, but still, UNC will be a tough opponent. UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a potential top ten pick, and Stanford will be playing without Christian McCaffrey. This matchup might be very close.
North Carolina was a sleeper ACC contender at the beginning of the year, and they are no easy opponent. Last year, they made the ACC title game, and this year, they beat Florida State, but the Tar Heels finished the regular season at 8-4. Led by Mitch Trubisky, the Tar Heels rely on their passing game. Trubisky will look to find a handful receivers but will favor Ryan Switzer. All season, the two have been in sync, and the Stanford secondary has a difficult matchup up ahead; Quenton Meeks and company will need to have one of their best games yet.
On defense, Stanford will need to focus on their secondary. North Carolina struggles to run the ball and do not have a rusher with over 1000 yards, so Stanford most likely will not stack the box to stop the run, but they still need to put pressure on the quarterback. Solomon Thomas will need to step up and get through the line, and Peter Kalambayi should help with pass rushing. Stanford has a good secondary and a good pass rush attack, but still Mitch Trubisky is an outstanding quarterback, and the North Carolina offense will only be slowed down. If Stanford wants to win, their offense will need to play well.
Stanford will still score on UNC despite missing Christian McCaffrey in the Sun Bowl. McCaffrey has been the center piece in the Stanford offense for a long time, but now, he’s no longer playing on the team. This year, Bryce Love filled in for McCaffrey against Notre Dame, and will do so once again against North Carolina. McCaffrey’s shoes will be hard to fill, but Love averages over seven yards per carry and will not be a huge downgrade. UNC has a weak rush defense, and expect Bryce Love to have a big game.
Stanford is also undefeated ever since Keller Chryst took the starting quarterback job. Chryst has used his legs and arm for Stanford and has played very well, but the UNC defense will be his toughest opponent yet. For Chryst, he will need Stanford to establish the run game so he can be free to throw the football. If Stanford wants to win the game, Chryst needs to play safe football and avoid turnovers.
Despite missing McCaffrey, Stanford is the team to beat. The Cardinal are the better team on paper; they have the better defense and better run game. Still, do not doubt the Tar Heels. Trubisky is an incredible football player, and Stanford needs to slow him down. Furthermore, North Carolina is probably amped to play Stanford in the Sun Bowl, and Stanford might be bummed to be playing in the Sun Bowl and bummed to be without Christian McCaffrey. North Carolina might have more motivation to win this game. Ultimately however, David Shaw will rally his team together, and Stanford wins 31-27.
Be sure to watch on CBS Friday, December, 30 at 11 am PT.
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