Well, well, well, what do we have here? Could this be a game against the very team who earlier this year decided to hand Dick Baddour a check for three quarters of a million dollar to not play UNC in a home and home series over the next two seasons? You know the NCAA Tournament swears on the grave of Henry Iba, they do place teams based on potential matchups. I don't know anyone in their right mind who takes that position at face value but the denial is there. The people who run bowls on the other hand have zero pretenses when it comes match-ups. Obviously bowls take fan attendance and profitability into consideration but UNC-UT given the proximity of both schools to Nashville and the extra juice from the canceled series was a no brainer. Then again, bowl officials also peddle crap no one wants like UConn in the Fiesta Bowl vs Oklahoma while an 8-4 Temple team who beat the Huskies received zero bowl invites. Or 11-1 Nevada ending up in the Hunger Bowl vs a mediocre Boston College team instead of something befitting a team with one loss who beat a team that was top five until last week. The football postseason sucks but it is what it is.
The game will be played on December 30th at 6:40 PM and be broadcast on ESPN. Overall, this is a good bowl for Tar Heel fans with designs on attending. Nashville is a nice destination which the only negative for the Heels being the unavoidable probability this will be a de facto home game for the Volunteers. Still, it's a better place to visit than say Shreveport or El Paso. With UNC sitting at 7-5 and in the middle of the ACC pecking order, this was as good as it was going to get without making a 3rd straight trip to Charlotte. Regardless this is a good opportunity to make it a third straight eight win season and knock off an SEC team in their home state. Butch Davis has also never won a bowl game at UNC going 0-2 in the previous appearances in Charlotte.
The real value in going to a bowl for UNC is really the extra practice time. UNC was forced to burn a few redshirts because of the NCAA investigation and injuries so giving the young players on the team extra reps is beneficial for next season. Also, I am not sure how Butch Davis plans to handle the first team reps with the QBs, but I would think giving Bryn Renner some of them would be smart move. Not that Renner is going to take T.J. Yates starting job but as we look to the next season, as much work as you can give him the better. Speaking of Yates, whatever he does will be adding to records he already owns and I don't think he is going to catch the single season TD mark of 23. Yates has 18 TD passes now so unless UT plans on laying down on pass defense, that record will stand.
Notes on Tennessee: UT finished the regular season 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the SEC. The Vols lost six games by an average of 20.5 points but is presently riding a four game winning streak with wins over Memphis, Mississippi, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. UNC and UT shared one common opponent, LSU and like the Heels, the Vols lost on the final play of the game when LSU scored to take the game 16-14 in Baton Rouge. UT head coach Derek Dooley is in his first year with the program.