North Carolina is making a second consecutive appearance in this game, and its third in the bowl's 8-year history. Pittsburgh is making its second appearance in this game, and its first since 2003. Both schools are looking for their first victory in this postseason affair.
The Tar Heels lead the overall series with Pittsburgh 4-2, and won the last meeting 20-17 at Three Rivers Stadium in the 2000 regular season.
Both head coaches in this game served as assistants under Jimmy Johnson at Oklahoma State and Miami.
Butch Davis is 20-17 in 3 seasons as the head coach at UNC, and is 71-37 overall in his 9-year collegiate head coaching career. He is 4-1 in bowl games, including 0-1 with the Tar Heels. North Carolina lost 31-30 to West Virginia in last year's Meineke Car Care Bowl.
The Tar Heels are 12-14 alltime in bowl games, but have lost their last two. North Carolina's last postseason win came against Auburn in the 2001 Peach Bowl.
Dave Wannstedt is 34-25 in 5 seasons at Pitt, his only collegiate head coaching position. His Panthers lost 3-0 to Oregon State in last year's Sun Bowl, his only bowl appearance. That game marked the lowest-scoring bowl game since a 0-0 tie between Air Force and TCU at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1959.
Pittsburgh is 10-15 alltime in bowl games, but has dropped its last three. The Panthers' last postseason win came against Oregon State in the 2002 Insight Bowl.
North Carolina brings an 8-4 record into this year's game. The Tar Heels had a 4-game winning streak snapped with a 28-27 loss at N.C. State in their regular season finale.
Pittsburgh is 9-3 after concluding the regular season with consecutive losses to West Virginia (19-16) and Cincinnati (45-44). Prior to those defeats, Pitt was in good shape to land a bid in the Orange Bowl.
North Carolina is the ACC leader in total defense and ranks 6th in the nation. The Tar Heels have allowed just 267.8 yards per game and their 28 forced turnovers include 19 intercepted passes. Safety Deunta Williams is tied for 7th nationally with 6 picks, and CB Kendric Burney has returned 2 of his 5 interceptions for touchdowns.
The Tar Heels spent much of the early season searching for an offense and still rank just 107th nationally. North Carolina's leading rusher, Ryan Houston, has 630 yards and a team-high 9 touchdowns. QB T.J. Yates has competed 60.4 percent of his passes (195-of-323) for 1,953 yards, but has thrown more picks (14) than touchdowns (12).
Pitt ranks 26th in total defense and 45th in total offense.
Freshman RB Dion Lewis led the way for the Panthers offensively. He is No. 3 in the nation in rushing yardage with 1,640 and needs just 47 more to pass the legendary Tony Dorsett’s school freshman rushing record set in 1973. His 102 points are a new Pitt freshman standard, eclipsing LeSean McCoy’s 2007 mark of 90.
Pitt junior defensive end Greg Romeus and senior defensive tackle Mick Williams were named Big East Co-Defensive Players of the Year.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET on December 26.