Saturday afternoon (3:20 pm ET) action features the Belk Bowl from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC with the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) of the American Athletic Conference taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6) of the ACC. The Bearcats lost to number 19 Louisville 31-24 in overtime to close the regular season on December 5th, snapping a 6-game winning streak that featured impressive road wins over Rutgers in week 12 (52-17) and Houston in week 13 (24-17). The Tar Heels lost their finale to in-state rival Duke 27-25 in November 30th, but had won 5 consecutive games prior to that to rebound from a dreadful 1-5 start.
Cincinnati ranks 20th among FBS teams in total offense with 482.3 yards per game and 38th in scoring offense with 33.3 points per game. Quarterback Brendon Kay has thrown for 3,121 yards with 22 TDs and 11 INTs for the Bearcats, and the passing game ranks 15th nationally with 313.8 YPG. Cincy distributes the ball evenly to multiple receiving options including Anthony McClung (68 receptions, 908 yards), Shaq Washington (75 receptions, 747 yards) and Chris Moore (43 receptions, 599 yards). The Bearcats rank 9th nationally in total defense with 313.2 YPG allowed and 12th in scoring defense with 19.5 PPG allowed.
North Carolina ranks 44th among FBS teams with432.4 yards per game and 47th in scoring offense with 32.2 points per game. Quarterback Marquise Williams has taken over for the injured Bryn Renner and added another dimension to the offense with his running ability. Williams has thrown for 1,527 yards with 14 TDs and 6 INTs, and run for 490 yards (5.2 YPC) and 6 TDs to lead the team in rushing. Tight end Eric Ebron leads the team in receiving with 55 receptions for 895 yards and 3 TDs, and wide receiver Quinshad Davis (47 receptions, 724 yards, 10 TDs) has a nose for the end zone. The Tar Heels rank 69th nationally in total defense with 407.7 YPG allowed and 50th in scoring defense with 25.1 PPG allowed.
Cincinnati vs. North Carolina Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Cincinnati Bearcats +2.5
@ North Carolina Tar Heels -2.5
Over 56.5 (-110)
Under 56.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Cincinnati vs North Carolina Pick
Cincinnati is playing in the Belk Bowl for the 2nd consecutive season after defeating Duke 48-34 last year. UNC is 2-0 all-time against Cincinnati, with the last meeting a 51-16 victory Sept. 14, 1991, in Chapel Hill. UNC is 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games; the OVER is 4-1 past five UNC bowl games. Cincinnati 3-7 ATS past 10 bowl games, but has won and covered past two. The Bearcats are 12-3 straight up in their last 15 games.
Kay played very well down the stretch for the Bearcats, including a 405 yard, 4 TD outing in the win over Rutgers and 304 yards and 2 rushing TDs against Louisville. Williams has also played well for the Tar Heels, and he has a big target in Ebron who has been a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. UNC has played the tougher schedule this season, but Cincinnati has played well on both sides of the ball this season. Their pass defense has shown itself to be weaker than their run defense which should allow the Tar Heels to have some success through the air. These two teams are very evenly matched, and picking against the line is a close call. The play here has to be the total, and with two high scoring offenses and a trend of UNC playing high-scoring bowl games recently the call here is to take the OVER.