Following a season where the Tar Heels went 8-4 on the year with a 5-3 record in conference play, North Carolina missed their chance at back-to-back Coastal Division victories. After a promising 2015 season, it’s easy to see 2016 as a step backwards for the program, however, there were certainly enough positives to outweigh any negatives and make up for the team’s disappointing record.
Unfortunately, regardless of how well the team did over the course of the season, this will be the end of the line for many UNC seniors. Ryan Switzer, Des Lawrence, T.J. Logan, Mack Hollins, Nick Weiler, Dominiquie Green, Mikey Bart, Lucas Crowley, Caleb Peterson, John Heck, John Ferranto, and Bug Howard will leave the program. It is also expected that starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky will leave for the NFL this offseason. Now that bowl season is upon us, we can look on this one last game as a way to send off a great class of Tar Heels towards wherever they plan on going next.
While it isn’t the ACC Championship Game or the College Football Playoffs, the 2016 Sun Bowl will give North Carolina a chance to redeem the disappointing end to an otherwise impressive season. UNC will face a Stanford Cardinals team that went 6-3 in the Pac-12 and a 9-3 record overall. They started eighth overall in the preseason AP poll but, like Carolina, managed to slide out of the top 25 as the season went on.
The game will take place on Friday, December 30 in El Paso, Texas at 2:00 PM. The Sun Bowl is among the oldest bowl games in NCAA history, first being played back in 1935. This will be the fourth time in their history that the Tar Heels play in the Sun Bowl. They won in 1972 and 1982, coming up short in 1974.
So far, the program has seen mixed results in bowl games under the leadership of Larry Fedora. UNC won the 2013 Belk Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats, however, they lost the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl to Rutgers and the 2015 Russell Athletics Bowl to Baylor. North Carolina needs this win to change the season around.