By Ryan Mayer
The college football bowl season is upon us. With 40 games spread out over the next two weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline/Bookmaker.eu. Find all our picks here.
All lines listed are as of publishing date. As always lines may change in the lead up to games so be sure to check.
UPDATE 12/19/16: Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey announced he won’t be playing in the Sun Bowl. However, that didn’t change our pick here. We felt the Heels would cover the spread, and with McCaffrey out, that remains true.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
#18 Stanford vs. UNC
Spread: Stanford -3.5
Spread: The Cardinal weren’t talked about much after they suffered losses to Washington, Washington State and Colorado in the span of four weeks, but they rebounded to end the season winning five straight. It’s not the same dominant team in the trenches that we’re used to seeing from David Shaw’s teams, but they started to find their stride in the second half of the year. All-purpose back Christian McCaffrey averaged nearly 200 yards per game (198.2) on the ground down the stretch and started to look more like his sophomore year self. He’s out for this game, but his backup, Bryce Love (90 carries 664 yards 2 TDs) has to be licking his chops going up against a Tar Heels defense that ranked 113th in rush defense allowing 235.5 yards per game on 4.59 yards per carry this year.
For the Tar Heels, they’ll be hoping that potential top draft pick QB Mitch Trubisky can find some holes in a Stanford secondary that allowed opponents to complete just 54% of their passes this season for 218.9 yards per game. Efficiency is the name of the game for Trubisky who’s completed 68.4% of his passes on the year with a 28-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Despite the Tar Heels’ weakness against the run, they’ve been very good in not giving up explosive plays, while also producing them on offense (12th offensive IsoPPP, 16th defensive IsoPPP). Combine that with the fact that Stanford was lit up by both Jake Browning (15/21 210 3 TDs 0 INT) and Luke Falk (30/41 357 4TDs 2 INT), the Tar Heels should have some success. Stanford will have some success in the running game, but the Heels keep it close and likely win it. UNC +3.5
Total: Both defenses have been pretty good about keeping opponents out of the end zone giving up a little more than three touchdowns per game on average. They rank 17th (Stanford) and 46th (UNC) in scoring defense and 30th (78%) and 40th (79.6%), respectively, in red zone defense this season. With that said, I think because of the strength of the two offenses going against relative weaknesses in the defenses could turn this game into a game in the 30’s. Over 54.5
You can watch a live stream of the game on CBSSports.com by visiting this link.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.