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Your Meineke Car Care Bowl Preview

The sparse national coverage I've seen of this game has all been Mountaineer-focused, from the wistful remembrances of better days to the Pat White tributes. UNC seems like an afterthought; the predictions are split evenly between the two teams, but WVU is the story. There are a couple of factoids being tossed around that aren't nearly as relevant as people would like them to be, however:

Pat White is 3-0 in bowl games. Pat White has also lost almost as many games this season (4) as he did in his first three (5). This is not those West Virginia teams. There's no Steve Slaton in the backfield, and the team hasn't scored more than 35 points in a game this season, as opposed to the 23 times the Mountaineers exceeded that mark in the three seasons prior. Their rushing attempts are down, and the extra stress on the passing game is giving White his worst year-performance since he was splitting time with Adam Bednarik.

UNC routed two Big East bowl teams. Well, yeah but WVU didn't really have problems with them either, blitzing Connecticut 35-17 and beating Rutgers 24-17 despite a Pat White injury. The Big East is a lot like he ACC, a conference of average teams of roughly the same ability. Maybe UNC's 2-0 record means the average ACC team is a little better, maybe not. (In the other two Big East - ACC match-ups, UConn beat Virginia and South Florida N.C. State, so there's no clear trend.)

I would spend more time looking at what is important. Namely:

Carolina's experience with running quarterbacks. The Heels' defense shut down Georgia Tech' triple option attack and even kept Tyrod Taylor in the pocket, holding him to 35 yards. They should be able to keep Pat White's game closer to one-dimensional. And while that won't stop him - White has a considerably better arm than both Taylor or Tech's Nesbitt - it will put more stress on a team already relying on one superstar player.

Carolina's injury woes. It's no coincidence that two of UNC's biggest failures in pass defense came against the last two teams of the schedule (Only Jimmy Clausen racked up more air yardage than State and Duke); injuries are taking their toll on both sides of the ball, and for a young team that wasn't very deep to begin with - witness UNC's fourth quarter defensive woes in early games - this is real trouble.

All in all, the predictions have mostly got it right, projecting a tight game that could go either way. (And as an aside, contrary to earlier reports, WVU running back Noel Devine will be playing, but may not be starting.) Me, I'm going with the Heels naturally, but the 21-20 score I see most often tossed around is a little low. Both teams break 30, but Carolina comes home with the Golden Muffler.

(Is there a Golden Muffler? There really should be.)