On Saturday December 28th, the North Carolina Tar Heels will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte NC. The Tar Heels are led by second year head coach Larry Fedora and had a 6-6 record this season leading up to the bowl berth. The Bearcats fared better this season, finishing with a 9-3 record while playing for the first time in the American Athletic Conference. The Belk Bowl promises to be an intriguing and fast paced scoring affair. Here are some things to watch for the game Saturday.
Eric Ebron and Who Guards Him
Eric Ebron emerged this season for Carolina as the best player on UNC’s offense and one of the top tight ends in college football. In turn, is draft stock has exploded and he is now projected to be a mid-first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Ebron has caught 895 yards and three touchdowns this season, and will cause countless matchup problems for the Bearcats secondary. Keep a close eye on Ebron’s impact in the Belk Bowl and how Cincy attempts to stop him. Expect UC to “shadow” Ebron over the top with a safety and double and triple team him to try and make someone else on UNC beat them.
Cincy’s Red Zone Strategy
Tony Milano, the Bearcats kicker, has been anything but dependable this season. Milano is a horrific 6-15 (40%) for field goals this season. Yikes. In comparison, Thomas Moore is 13-17 (76.5%) for the season, and he isn’t even regarded as a strong kicker.
Tommy Tuberville, UC’s coach, has lost faith in his kicker and altered his gameplan in the red zone against Louisville to avoid sending Milano out to kick. Unless Santa brought Milano a new kicking leg this Christmas, he probably won’t be trotting out to attempt any three pointers in the Belk Bowl. Watch to see how Tuberville manipulates his offense to adjust.
UNC’s Defensive Pressure
The Tar Heels have to find a way to pressure Cincy quarterback Brendon Kay and force him out of the pocket on Saturday. In order to accomplish this task, UNC might show of some new exotic blitzes in the Belk Bowl.
UNC most successful game for pass rush was against Pittsburgh, when Pitt QB Tom Savage seemingly spent more time on the ground than upright in the pocket in the first half. Savage is very similar to Kay in general as quarterbacks, so UNC’s use of corner and safety blitzes against the Panthers might work against the Bearcats. Look for Terry Shankel, Jabari Price and Dominic Green to come on blitzes to try and pressure Brendon Kay out of the pocket and into bad throws.
Fedora’s Bag of Tricks
UNC’s has used their fair share of trick plays this season, be it a Quinshad Davis pass or a Ryan Switzer reverse TD toss. But don’t expect the trick plays to end with the ending of the regular season
Coach Fedora has hinted at some exciting new trick plays special for the Belk Bowl. There is no doubt that trickery will impact the game for either Cincy or UNC, so keep your eyes open for any fake reverse double pass trick plays that might pop up in the Belk Bowl for the Heels.