2010 Music City Bowl - UNC vs. Tennessee
Tennessee QB Tyler Bray & UNC QB T.J. Yates
Tennessee QB Tyler Bray & UNC QB T.J. Yates
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 28, 2010


2010-2011 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2010 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - North Carolina vs. Tennessee

2010 Music City Bowl

North Carolina
(7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)

 
Thursday, December 30th, 6:30 ESPN  

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Pick ATS: North Carolina  Confidence Score: 41
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 14 out of 35
SCROLL DOWN to the bottom for all the CFNers' confidence picks and bowl history

By Richard Cirminiello

Note to the Music City Bowl staff: Try to be even more hospitable than ever. Your two bowl participants have had volatile seasons and can use a little stroking and down time prior to kickoff.

North Carolina and Tennessee have had their share of adversity this year, both on and off the field, yet lived to tell about it and still qualified for the postseason. On many levels, the schools and their staffs were studies in perseverance, battling through all kinds of issues to get to this point. So, what might appear to be disappointing seasons from those on the outside were actually dotted with silver linings and moral victories.

Statistics In Yards
UT   NC
4,390 Total
Offense
4,681
4,583 Total
Defense
4,062
27 Scoring
Offense
24.9
24.7 Scoring
Defense
22.9
1,393 Rushing
Offense
1,483
1,832 Rushing
Defense
1,606
2,997 Passing
Offense
3,198
2,751 Passing
Defense
2,456
0.42 Turnover Margin 0.00
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
UT   NC
3 QBs 4
3 RBs 4
4 WRs 3.5
3.5 O Line 3
3.5 D Line 4
3.5 LBs 4
4 DBs 3.5
3.5 STs 4
3 Coach 4
CFN 2010 2011 CFN Bowl Previews & Confidence Picks
- New Mexico - BYU vs. UTEP
- Human. - Fresno St vs. NIU
- New Orleans - Troy vs. Ohio
- St. Pete - UL vs. So Miss
- Las Vegas - Utah vs. Boise St
- Poinsettia - SDSU vs. Navy
- Hawaii - Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Little Caesars - Toledo vs. FIU
- Ind. - Air Force vs. GT
- Champs - NC St vs. WVU
- Insight - Iowa vs. Mizz
- Military - Mary. vs. ECU
- Texas - Illinois vs. Baylor
- Alamo - Ok St vs. Arizona
- Armed Forces - SMU vs. Army
- Pinstripe - SU vs. KSU
- Music City - UNC vs. Tenn
- Holiday - Neb vs. Wash
- Meineke - USF vs. Clemson
- Sun - Miami vs. ND
- Liberty - UCF vs. Georgia
- Chick-fil-A - FSU vs. USC
- TicketCity - NW vs. TT
- Outback - PSU vs. Florida
- Capital One - MSU vs. Bama
- Gator - Mich vs. Miss St
- GoDaddy - MU vs. MT
- Cotton - A&M vs. LSU
- Compass - Pitt vs. UK
- Kraft - BC vs. Nevada
- Rose - UW vs. TCU
- Fiesta - OU vs. UConn
- Orange - Stan. vs. VT
- Sugar - Ark. vs. OSU
- BCS Champ. - Aub. vs. Oregon
The Tar Heels' campaign was practically grounded before it ever began, the product of rampant player suspensions and injuries. A trendy pick to win the ACC in August, expectations quickly changed and the program went from the hunted to the hunter. For the most part, it managed the trying situation well, becoming bowl-eligible in early November with a thrilling 37-35 upset of Florida State in Tallahassee. Carolina started to run out of gas down the stretch, losing 2-of-3 and barely escaping Duke, as a long season took a toll on its shrinking depth.

Were the Heels a feel-good story or an epic waste of opportunity in 2010? Like most debates, it really depends on who you ask. One undeniable positive is that all of the suspensions created opportunities for a bunch of young players, whose roles weren't expected to be so substantial this fall. Losing the likes of Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, and Greg Little meant fresh openings that needed to be filled by eager underclassmen. Will head coach Butch Davis be the beneficiary of those reps in 2011? That's a question that probably won't be answered until after this game.

First-year Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley had issues of his own in Knoxville, inheriting a young team that wasn't quite ready to compete on a high level in the SEC. The Volunteers sputtered to a 2-6 start, their wins coming over Tennessee-Martin and UAB in overtime. The losses were embarrassing, as rock-bottom was found by the end October. However, to their credit, the Vols rallied impressively in November, winning four consecutive games as the schedule softened. Everything began to click, lending hope that the school can use its finish as a launching point into next season.

The face of Tennessee's turnaround was a youthful one. Shortly after midseason, Dooley handed the ball to hot-shot California recruit Tyler Bray, who left no doubt who'd be leading the offense in 2011 and beyond. Not only was he at the helm during the winning streak, but he threw for 14 touchdowns and only five picks over the final five games. He, as much as any other Vol, is going to benefit from the extra practice and additional game that comes with bowl-eligibility.

From neighboring states, North Carolina and Tennessee once had an agreement to play a home-and-home series in 2011 and 2012 ... before the Volunteers backed out. There'll be no avoiding the Tar Heels in Nashville, where two schools are looking for a little relaxation and a chance to put an exclamation point at the end of erratic seasons.

Players to Watch: Bray's counterpart on the other side of the field will be Carolina hurler T.J. Yates, who was one of the feel-good stories to emerge from all of the turmoil. A whipping boy of fans around Chapel Hill for three years, he flourished when his program needed him most, throwing for a career-high 18 touchdown passes and a career-low eight picks. With Little gone, WR Dwight Jones blossomed as his favorite target, catching 57 passes for 895 yards and four touchdowns. Both will have to come up big to offset a running game that's been besieged by injuries and is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry.

Yates will be facing a Tennessee secondary that's very young ... and very talented. By the end of the season, the Vols were starting four underclassmen, corners Marsalis Teague and Prentiss Waggner, and safeties Janzen Jackson and Brent Brewer. Together, they matured as the season progressed, giving up five touchdown passes and picking off 11 balls over the final five games. In the mold of former teammate Eric Berry, Waggner has really stood as the budding star of the group, taking back three of his five interceptions for touchdowns. He has the size and ball skills to start attracting pro scouts' attention in 2011.

Arguably the biggest beneficiary of the Carolina suspensions was DT Quinton Coples, who went from likely backup to All-ACC first team practically overnight. Given a chance to shine, the 6-6, 275-pounder flashed uncommon quickness and get-off for an interior lineman, making a team-high 14 tackles and 8.5 sacks. Literally the biggest concern for Bray on Thursday night, he'll be facing a Tennessee offensive line that's even greener than the secondary. The Volunteers start freshmen at center and both tackles, which explains why they finished at the bottom of the conference in sacks allowed this season.

It'll help the Vols immensely if they can establish the running game. Enter junior RB Tauren Poole. A non-factor in his first two seasons on campus, he became the workhorse this season, carrying the ball 193 times for 994 yards and 11 touchdowns. Yeah, it was a workmanlike season, but he ran for 100 yards six times and helped take pressure off the quarterbacks as they were developing. He'll occasionally get past the first line of defense, but it'll come with a cost. Led by Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter, the Carolina linebacker corps is flush with next-level run-stoppers who rarely miss in the open field.

North Carolina will win if ... it can generate something on the ground, preferably no less than 150 yards.

While it's not as if Yates can't deliver as a solo act, the Heels have a much better shot of winning if they can achieve offensive balance. If the attack becomes predictable, it'll literally play right into the hands of those ball-hawking Tennessee defensive backs. While it's unlikely leading rusher Johnny White will have healed from a broken collarbone in time for this game, veterans Shaun Draughn and Anthony Elzy are still in the mix. While neither is a game-breaker, both have had their moments throughout their Tar Heel careers, and are capable of grinding out 75 or 80 yards apiece. The Vols have been unusually soft at the point of attack this fall, which Carolina has to exploit in order to maximize its potential on offense.

Tennessee will win if ...  the offensive line earns passing grades after 60 minutes.

It's been a rough year for the Volunteer O-line, which has suffered through considerable growing pains. There's a reason that the team ranks 100th nationally in rushing and 112th in sacks allowed. However, the group has gotten better with time, specifically the rookies, C James Stone and T Ja'Wuan James. In November, Bray had more time to throw and the holes for Poole lasted a little longer. The front wall has to keep that trend going, allowing Bray the time he needs to spot TE Luke Stocker and receivers Denarius Moore, Gerald Jones, and Justin Hunter. Those pass-catchers, specifically Moore, have the dynamic potential to school a quality Carolina secondary.

What will happen: Go ahead and call this the first game of the 2011 season for Tennessee.

While the Volunteers were peaking in November, North Carolina was running out of steam, the result of an exhausting season. The Vols are flush with underclassmen, which can be a concern and a blessing. In this case, it'll be a big benefit for a team that's hot and genuinely excited to still be playing. This isn't September, when inexperience was crippling the squad. A full season of games has been crucial for both the kids and Dooley and his staff. Bray, in particular, is maturing on the fly. He'll continue growing in his first postseason game, throwing a pair of touchdown passes and generally playing with poise. It'll be close throughout and generally low-scoring, a nip-and-tuck affair that won't be decided until late in the fourth quarter.

CFN Prediction: Tennessee 24 … North Carolina 20 ... Line: UNC -1
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Pick ATS: North Carolina  Confidence Score: 41
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 14 out of 35

Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - North Carolina  Pick Confidence - 17
- This isn't exactly where the two teams hoped to be at the start of the season, but it's a nice reward for Tennessee, who was dead and buried until the schedule started to soften up. The Vols feasted on the weak and the sad of the SEC and closed the year strong, while North Carolina was never able to find a groove with all the suspensions early on. The Tar Heels lost a slew of heartbreaking games, but they can't take the hot Vols lightly.

Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS - North Carolina   Pick Confidence - 10
- Tennessee has an opportunity to surge into the offseason with a win in Nashville. Yeah, the competition settled down, but the Vols have come a long way since beginning the year 2-6 and falling virtually out of the bowl race.

Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - North Carolina  Pick Confidence - 11
- Evidently, Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton didn't want to back out of this matchup against North Carolina. One wonders how many times the Tar Heels can fail to close down a beatable opponent this season.

Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - North Carolina  Pick Confidence - 11
- Tennessee saved its season (and perhaps its coach) on the arm of its talented (if slender) freshman, Tyler Bray (eat something). However, all four of those wins came against suspect defenses. Clearly NC didn't have the season many expected, but it's defense is still ranked 32nd in the nation, and will be the best Bray has seen up close.

Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - North Carolina  Pick Confidence - 23
- Tennessee made a bowl game, and that's really all that matters. They get the benefit of the extra bowl practice and get to play in front of the home folks, so it's a win-win for the Vols.

Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Tennessee  Pick Confidence - 19
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - North Carolina Pick Confidence - 6
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - North Carolina  Pick Confidence - 13
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Tennessee  Pick Confidence - 29
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Tennessee   Pick Confidence -  2