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Staff Sun Bowl predictions: Stanford Cardinal vs North Carolina Tar Heels

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We asked the writers their thoughts on the upcoming Stanford football game against North Carolina

NCAA Football: Rice at Stanford Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Foy: 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.

Courtland Nickelberry: Stanford had a lot growing pains this season but also grew up. Stanford will fight and be very competitive but with absence of a superstar like a Christian McCaffrey. Over the last 7 years North Carolina has produced some very good skill position players and that's will be the difference in this game. I believe that Stanford will fall short. North Carolina wins 28-23.

Nerdnation23: Any bowl game outside of the New Years Six games can be a crapshoot. Location, injuries, motivation, etc. all play a bigger part than usual. Stanford has played in a bowl game every year this decade and while this isn't bad, the Sun Bowl isn't Pasadena either. I think if Stanford can stop UNC on 3rd downs and force penalties which is something UNC likes to do, Mitch Trubisky won't be able to lead his team as Stanford has more secondary weapons than UNC. Stanford 38 UNC 24.

Tony Fernandes Stanford is coming into the Sun Bowl riding a ton of confidence on both sides of the ball. Sure, no McCaffrey, but it was bound to happen sooner or later and the future is here with young Bryce Love at Tailback. Since this is the finale, I'm banking on Coach Shaw finally unleashing the Kraken, and airs it out more this game than he has all season. Carolina is a well coached team; but struggled against solid rushing attacks. Look for the healthy Cardinal D to get in the face of Trubisky a lot, and the Cardinal to ride off into the sunset with a 42-24 victory over the Tar Heels.

CMolesky: While this looks like the bowl with no backs, watch out for both Bryce Love of the Cardinal and T.J. Logan of the Tar Heels. Both are shifty, fast, and can make plays all over the field. Not just as running backs. The edge for Stanford is in their pass rush against a quarterback that likes to deliver strikes from the pocket. Trubisky's worst game was against the Virginia Tech Hokies, yes it was raining but they also got constant pressure on the quarterback. Solomon Thomas, Phillip Harrison and company can do just that for 60 minutes. Stanford wins 31-24.

Matt Vassar: Both teams will be without their top runningback, but--make no mistake--the backups are no slouches. UNC's TJ Logan puts up 5.7 yards per carry, while Bryce Love puts up a whopping 7.4 yards per carry (even better than Christian McCaffrey). Couple Bryce Love with a bad UNC rush defense, and look for Bryce Love's second coming out party that cements him as the Christian McCaffrey of 2017. Stanford takes it away in a nail-biter, 27-24.

Kyle Fierro: Stanford will be without McCaffrey for this one, but I don't expect that to play a huge role, as the step-down to Love is relatively small. UNC's most glaring team weakness is run defense, so I don't see the need for Stanford to rely on Chryst's arm too much- Love has proven he can handle the ball and I expect Stanford to play possession football. I believe the outcome of the game will come down to the Stanford secondary and their ability to limit UNC QB Trubisky, who will be playing on Sundays. The wild and unpredictable nature of bowl games paired with the fact that these two teams are relatively evenly matched to begin with leaves the outcome a toss-up. I'll play the pessimist and guess UNC 31- Stanford 28, but I could really see it going either way.

John Loop: Two teams. Two second-string running backs. One undefeated (5-0) starting quarterback. One surefire top ten NFL Draft pick (if he leaves). Yes, the Sun Bowl doesn't have all the glitz, glamour or stigma which a "New Year's Six" game might carry. However, it might be one of the best-kept secrets of bowl season. If you want my take, here it is: Stanford is 2-1 in El Paso appearances all-time. Expect them to be 3-1 Saturday morning. Cardinal 37, Carolina 30.

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