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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Music City Bowl Preview

Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl

Time: 6:30

Channel: ESPN

Weather: 50 ° with a 50% chance of rain.

Commentators: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen & Holly Rowe

The Tennessee Vols look to cap off an improbable season with a bowl victory in the Music City Bowl. Its fitting that they landed in Nashville for a showdown with the North Carolina Tar Heels, as both teams have fought off obstacles to just make it to a bowl game. Tennessee started the year off a disheartening 2-6 under first year coach Derek Dooley but upon inserting freshman sensation QB Tyler Bray for Matt Simms, the Vols and their once anemic offense took off. Bray would spark a unit that was previously ranked near the bottom of all the major passing categories in the SEC. Bray was just sensational in his 4 start as he took home freshmen of the week honors in two of his starts. Tauren Poole and the run game also benefited from Bray’s presence in the pocket. The Vols rolled to four straight victory earning them there second consecutive bowl berths. This is basically a home game for the Vols as the expected crowd is predicted to be 90% in Vol Orange. Local players like Eric Gordon, James Stone and Marsalis Teague will have to find a lot of tickets to accommodate family and friends. Although this should make for a familiar atmosphere, it can sometime become a distraction before the game itself. Coach Derek Dooley will be participating in just his second bowl game and is also learning the ropes of the bowl game aura as this basically amounts to a home bowl game in Nashville.

The North Carolina Tar Heels season has been mired in controversy. They started off the season suspending thirteen players including standouts defensive end Marvin Austin and Michael McAdoo, starting cornerbacks Kedric Burney and Charles Brown, wide out Greg Little, Tailbacks Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston; safeties Brian Gupton, Da'Norris Searcy and Jonathan Smith; and defensive end Linwan Euwell for receiving improper benefits. And yet another scandal rocked Chapel Hill as the NCAA investigated a former tutor who was employed by the University committed academic misconduct by performing players’ papers for class. And lastly (I promise you North Carolina I’m not trying to pile on your guys) assistant John Blake was accused of setting up a meeting between an active college athlete and an agent could be a major NCAA violation. Blake resigned as the defensive line coach at UNC amid allegations that he was siphoning Tar Heel players to an agent. That is just the type of year it has for the guys in powder blue. Even with all the off-field distractions Coach Butch Davis and his team have weathered the storm though and finished up with a 7-5 record and were in contention for the ACC Coastal division to very end. While speaking of suspension, yet another was handed down for the Tar Heels as starting running back Anthony Elzy was suspended for as Coach Butch Davis termed it “Failure to meet his obligations as a student-athlete”.

Keys to the game:

1. T.J Yates vs. Tennessee defense: Yates was the glue that held this ravaged roster together as he finished the regular season with 3,184 yards and 18 touchdowns. His 148.78 passer efficiency was good enough for second in the conference. Tennessee will have to find a way to counter Yates. The Vols secondary actually is best unit they have on defense with the likes of Janzen Jackson and Prentiss Waggner. If the Vols can frustrate Yates it could lead to turnovers as Yates has been prone to interceptions. Who ever win this match-up will have the inside track to winning the game.

2. Tyler Bray’s Poise vs. North Carolina’s Pass Rush: North Carolina came into this year boasting a defensive line that featured two projected NFL draft picks in Mario Austin and Michael McAdoo but due to the suspensions at the beginning neither player has played a down for the Tar Heels this year. Even without those two they’ve managed 25.0 sacks. Bray has stood tall all year since he was handed the keys to the Vols offense but he is still a freshman. The Tar Heels must get pressure on him if they expect to have chance in this one.

3. Turnover battle: The team that usually wins the turnover battle wins the game and both North Carolina and Tennessee prove that theory to be true. North Carolina is +6 in that department this year and UT is +2 so neither team is terrible at this statistic. When teams are this evenly matched as they are in this one, it’s the little mistakes that lead to turnovers that so often determine the game.

Prediction: This is a game of evenly matched teams. Both have good passing games and decent running attacks. The difference in the game will be which defense can apply pressure to the opposing QB. UT will also have the crowd on their side and should use that to their advantage. I can’t go against the “home” team on this one. UT 28-24

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