After a college football-less Christmas Day, the action gets going again Friday with three bowl games for your enjoyment, the second of which pits Rutgers versus North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl at 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) at Ford Field in Detroit. The first week of bowl season has been eventful and this game looks like a potential fun one. Let’s take a glance at what’s in store:
What’s at stake: North Carolina (6-6) is looking for a win to secure its seventh consecutive season with a winning record and second straight bowl win. The back-to-back bowl wins would be a first for the Tar Heels since 1996 to 1998, when they won three straight. Rutgers (7-5) is looking to finish with eight wins for the seventh time in nine years. A victory would be Kyle Flood’s first bowl win as the Scarlet Knights’ head coach and move the program to 6-4 all time in bowl games.
Players to watch: Rutgers junior receiver Leonte Carroo was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media after turning in an impressive 53-catch, 1,043-yard, 10-touchdown season. His 10 touchdown catches tied the Scarlet Knights’ single-season record and was second in the Big Ten. Though Flood listed him on the injury report with an upper body injury, Carroo is probable and according to Flood likely to be 100 percent by game time. North Carolina junior quarterback Marquise Williams, a second-team All-ACC media pick, led the Tar Heels in passing yards (2,870) and rushing yards (737) and has 32 combined touchdowns (20 passing, 12 receiving). His 3,607 yards of total offense is a single-season school record and he is responsible for five of the 12 highest UNC single-game totals for total offense.
Comeback kids: North Carolina trailed in the second half in five of its six wins this season and four of those wins required a big play in the game’s final five minutes to secure victory. The Tar Heels’ closest call in a winning effort came against Georgia Tech, when T.J. Logan scored on a 2-yard run with 11 seconds left to complete a 48-43 victory. Rutgers can come from behind, too, and quarterback Gary Nova has shown a knack for rallying. He has led Rutgers to seven fourth-quarter or overtime comeback wins in his career, tied for the most of any active player in the country. He did it twice this season, rallying the Scarlet Knights to wins over Washington State and Maryland.
Piling up the points?: With both teams featuring gifted quarterbacks in Nova and Williams and neither having what anyone would call a shutdown defense (North Carolina allows 38.9 points per game, 119th in the country; while Rutgers allows 30.9 points per game, 92nd nationally), this game could become a shootout in short order. Plus, North Carolina let go of associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning earlier this month (Dan Disch is running the Tar Heels' defense for the game). That should provide plenty of day-after-Christmas entertainment for those looking for it.