Our 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl free pick features the #18 Stanford Cardinal vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels. A win in this bowl will give the Cardinal a 10-win season and legitimize their ranking. The Tar Heels underperformed this season and have a bunch of question marks for next year. Can they keep their focus in this game?
The Stanford Cardinal (9-3 Overall, 6-3 PAC-12 Conference) finished third in the PAC-12 North behind Washington and Washington State. They started with three wins, which included USC and UCLA, and then lost to #10 Washington 44-6 and unranked Washington State 42-16. Five straight wins to end the season came against teams that had weak defenses.
For the ACC’s North Carolina Tar Heels (6-4 Overall, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), it’s been a mediocre season where they ended up second in the Costal Division. After starting the season with a loss to Georgia, the Tar Heels managed four straight wins, including beating #12 Florida State 37-35. They also beat #16 Miami 20-13. But a key 34-3 loss to Virginia Tech and a 1-2 finish to the season that included a 28-21 loss to NC State tarnished their season.
#18 Stanford Cardinal
The Stanford team is averaging 26.4 PPG. Of their 34 touchdowns, 20 have been rushing. This is a running team. QB Ryan Burns (61.9 COMP%, 5 TDs, 7 INTs) won’t be passing too much. When he does Burns will be looking for receiver Trenton Irwin (36 REC, 437 YDs, 12.1 AVG, 1 TD). WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside leads all Stanford pass catchers with five scores and an average gain of 16.7 YPC. The primary offensive thrust will come from RB Christian McCaffrey (253 ATT, 1,603 YDs, 6.3 AVG, 13 TDs). McCaffrey, the teams leading rusher, also has 37 receptions for 310 yards and three scores.
Stanford puts a solid defense on the field. They’ve had 35 sacks, 63 TFL, and 12 interceptions. Plus, the D has defended 45 passes and notched 31 QB hurries. They’ve forced six fumbles. They’re holding teams to 20.2 PPG and have kept opponent red zone scoring to 78.05%.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Mitch Trubisky (68.9 COMP%, 28 TDs, 4 INTs) is an accurate and reliable quarterback. Of North Carolina’s 48 TDs, 28 are through the air. The Tar Heels are averaging 33.1 PPG. Trubisky has a bunch of fine receivers to pass to with the top performers being Ryan Switzer (91 REC, 1,027 YDs, 11 .3 AVG, 5 TDs) and Bug Howard (48 REC, 768 YDs, 16.0 AVG, 7 TDs), RB Elijah Wood and T.J. Logan each have over 100 carries and are averaging close to six yards per carry. Wood has eight touchdowns and Logan seven with Trubisky adding five more.
The Tar Heel D is allowing 24.9 PPG while holding opponent offenses to a red zone scoring mark of 79.59%. The team has 22 sacks, 60 TFL, and 1 INT. All of these are very low totals. In addition, they’ve broken up 43 passes, had 14 QB hurries, and caused 11 fumbles. The team has been penalized 92 times for 747 yards. Those are not good numbers.
2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl Free Pick
Stanford comes to this game favored by 2.5. The over/under is at 54. For our 2016 Hyundai Sun Bowl free pick, we like the Cardinal team and the over.
The Hyundai Sun Bowl will kickoff at 2 p.m. ET on Dec. 30. It will be played at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas and can be seen on CBS.