Three keys for Pittsburgh in Saturday's Meineke Car Care Bowl against North Carolina:
1. Make the Tar Heels offense beat you: In other words, don't let North Carolina get points in non-traditional ways, which is one of its trademarks. The Tar Heels have seven non-offensive scores this season, including four interception returns for touchdowns. Their actual offense, however, is pretty pedestrian, ranking 106th nationally in total offense. Pitt quarterback Bill Stull was sure with the ball most of the season, but threw some costly interceptions in the last two games. Special teams have to be stronger than they were against Cincinnati. If it's up to T.J. Yates and the North Carolina offense to march the field continually, the Panthers should be in good shape.
2. Protect Stull: This one seems like an easy category for Pittsburgh to win, since it gave up just 13 sacks in 12 regular-season games. But North Carolina is terrific at rushing the passer, especially with defensive end Robert Quinn, who had 11 sacks on the year. The Tar Heels defensive line, like Pitt's, is athletic and aggressive and doesn't need much help from other blitzers to get to the quarterback. The Panthers need to be physical up front, get the running game going with Dion Lewis and allow Stull time to find his receivers downfield.
3. Get Dorin Dickerson involved: The senior tight end was one of Pitt's best weapons the first 10 games and was on pace for an All-American season. He disappeared in the final two games, catching only two passes total in losses to West Virginia and Cincinnati. Was he hurt, or did the team just forget about him? Without Dickerson's multi-dimensional skills, the Panthers offense becomes a lot more predictable. He'll be needed in this game to keep the North Carolina defense on its toes.