Belk Bowl breakdown: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
Cincinnati (9-3) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
Dec. 26, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: The Belk Bowl has a special place in all our hearts, as it begat one of the best Laff Riots ever compiled by Campus Union guardian emeritus Holly Anderson. Everyone will rush, jump, scramble, scurry and belk to make their best Belk puns throughout as Cincinnati tries to hold serve in Charlotte for the second straight year. The Bearcats took down Duke with two touchdowns in the final minute after the game was tied at 34 last year, and against a potent UNC offense under Larry Fedora, points are to be expected again in this one.
• Keep an eye on: Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron, who has already announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft in 2014. Ebron was a second-team SI.com All-America selection and is one of the most athletic tight ends in the nation. The junior compiled 55 catches for 895 yards and three scores during the regular season. Plus he’s always good for a quote. Before the team’s win over N.C. State, Ebron took to Twitter to talk a bit.
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) October 27, 2013
After the game, he backed up his words, saying “I mean, this is Our State,” referring to the Wolfpack’s midfield logo and billboard campaign. He also subscribes to the mother knows best philosophy, especially when it came to opting for the draft.
Ebron on mom’s role in decision: “She has the final say so in 95 percent of my life. The other five percent is when I’m on PlayStation.”
— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) November 25, 2013
• Did you know:Belk is the nation’s largest family owned and operated department store. If you’re from the North or the West, you likely won’t know anything about Belk at all, and it still will be this foreign sounding mystery word. The commercials aren’t always super helpful either.
But I assure you it’s a normal store, kind of like a Macy’s but more polite and with a larger selection of Sperrys and sundresses.
• Final analysis: On things that are more football related and less about the retail experience, these two teams match up fairly well. (The line on the game is UNC -3, and that seems about right.) Both UNC and Cincinnati started slow this season before surging down the stretch. The Bearcats were 3-2 with ugly losses to Illinois and USF before winning six of their last seven; the Tar Heels started 1-5 and won five of their last six. While Cincinnati’s defense has the edge over North Carolina’s, UNC sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams has come on strong since taking over Bryn Renner, and has the type of athleticism to take over a game like this. In a shootout, the Tar Heels have the edge, and it doesn’t hurt they’ll be in their home state.
• The pick: UNC 38, Cincinnati 34