Charlotte, N.C. – Cincinnati returns to the Belk Bowl for the second straight year to face North Carolina in a 3:20 pm kickoff on December 20 at Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Just as it did last year, Cincinnati brings a 9-3 record into the game, but it's trip here last year came as co-champion of the Big East Conference, whereas this year's visit comes as 3rd-place finisher in the new American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats had a 6-game winning streak snapped in the final week of the regular season in a 31-24 home overtime loss to Louisville.
After a 1-5 start, North Carolina went on a 5-game tear and finished 5th in the ACC Coastal with a 6-6 record and achieved bowl eligibility in the next-to-last game of the season with a rout of FCS member Old Dominion. The Tar Heels then closed out the year with a loss to rival Duke.
The Belk Bowl had been an ACC-Big East matchup every year except for 2006 when Boston College played Navy. That was also the only time that the game did not include a school based in the Carolinas or Virginia.
Cincinnati won last year's contest 48-34 over Duke.
The game would appear to be set up for a rout on paper as Cincinnati ranks 20th in the nation on offense and 9th on defense, while North Carolina comes in ranked 44th on offense and 72nd on defense. But the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com only extend the Bearcats a 0.63-point advantage for the 4th-closest forecasted margin of the 35 postseason games.
For Cincinnati, Brendon Kay took over at QB after Munchie LeGaux suffered a season-ending leg in jury in the second game of the season against Illinois. Kay went on to complete 68.4% of his passes with 22 touchdowns and 11 picks. Kay also took over for LeGaux in the back half of the 2012 season, but not due to injury, and threw for 10 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions.
Cincinnati also had the top rushing offense in the American and 2nd-ranked pass offense.
North Carolina ranked 5th in the ACC on offense, but relied on the pass by a 2-to-1 margin over the run. Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams split time at QB. Renner completed 65.8% of his throws for 1,765 yards, 10 scores and 5 INT's. Williams had a 58.2% completion rate for 1,527 yards with 14 TD's and 6 picks. Renner is the pocket passer while Williams also ran for 490 yards and 6 more scores.
Cincinnati is 7-6 all-time in bowl games while UNC is 13-16. The Tar Heels played in this game in 2008 and 2009 when it was called the Meineke Car Care Bowl and lost squeakers both times - to West Virginia 30-31 in 2008, and to Pittsburgh 19-17 in 2009.