#15 Oregon Ducks vs North Carolina Tarheels (12/28 @ 8:00 PM EST)
Spread: Oregon -14
Money Line: Oregon -550 / North Carolina +430
Overview and Betting Info
The #15 Oregon Ducks (9-3) will face off against the North Carolina Tar Heels (9-4) in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl. Oregon finished their season with a loss to Oregon State, costing them a chance at a PAC 12 championship. North Carolina started the season 9-1 before losing their final two games and the ACC championship. This will be the first-ever matchup between these two schools.
The Ducks are 8-4 against the spread and have covered seven of their last ten games. For point totals, they are 7-5 in favor of the under and have gone under in three of their previous five games.
The Tar Heels are 5-7-1 versus the spread but have failed to cover six of their last ten games. For the point total, they are 6-7 in favor of the under and have gone under in four of their previous five.
#15 Oregon Ducks
The Ducks’ offense averaged 507.8 yards (4th in FBS) and 39.7 points (9th in FBS) per game. They are led by quarterback Bo Nix, who finished the year with 3,389 yards and 27 touchdowns through the air. He’s also been a significant threat on the ground, with 504 yards and fourteen touchdowns. A big reason for his success has been the offensive line’s play, as Nix has only been sacked four times this season. Nix is supported by a talented group of receivers led by Troy Franklin (867 yards, 8 TDs). The receiver has gone over 130 yards three times this season and has scored a touchdown in his last three games. He joins Kris Hutson (463 yards) and Chase Cota (455 yards, 2 TD) but will be without Don’t’e Thornton, who will be entering the transfer portal. They’ll need Hutson and Cota to step up, as Thornton had 174 yards over his last two games.
Bucky Irving leads the Oregon backfield with 906 yards and three touchdowns. The running back is also active in the passing game, with 300 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Irving has played well this year but has struggled recently, with just 72 rushing yards combined in their last two games. Irving shares carry with Noah Whittington (754 yards, 5 TDs), averaging 5.9 yards per carry and scoring in three of their previous four games. Whittington isn’t the receiving threat that Irving is, but he’s been out-carrying the lead back over their last two games.
The Ducks’ defense allowed 386.1 yards and 27.4 points per game this season. The unit sputtered to finish the year, allowing over 30 points in two of their last three games. Things won’t be easier this week as they’ll be without one of their top players in cornerback Christian Gonzalez, who leads the team with four interceptions and seven pass deflections. They will also be without linebacker Justin Flowe, who had 35 tackles on the year. The good news is that they will have DJ Johnson, who leads the team with six sacks. The Ducks will also have defensive backs Bennett Williams (2 INT) and Trikweze Bridges (3 INT) available to fill in for the absence of Gonzalez. Williams is also the team’s leading tackler, with 67.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The North Carolina offense averaged 473.6 yards and 35 points per game this season. They were led by a breakout season from Freshmen Drake May, who threw for 4,115 yards (3rd in FBS) and 35 touchdowns (6th in FBS). When he isn’t throwing, May is also the Tar Heels’ leading rusher, with 653 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. As good as he has been, May has struggled in his last three games (59% completion, 234 YPG, 1 TD, 4 INT). He will be without leading wideout Josh Downs (1,029 yards, 11 TD), who is out to prep for the NFL Draft. That means Antoine Green (798 yards, 7 TD) will take over as the top receiver. Green has been great, averaging an impressive 18.6 yards per catch. He will join Bryson Nesbit (470 yards, 3 TD), JJ Jones (423 yards, 2 TD), and Kamari Morales (358 yards, 4 TD) to try and fill the void left by Downs.
The Tar Heels backfield is led by Elijah Green, who has 508 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. He and Drake May complement each other well on the ground, but Green has faltered a bit in the last couple of games. When Green and May aren’t carrying the ball, look for Freshmen Omarion Hampton (397 yards, 6 TD) to see a handful of carries. Hampton played well to begin the year but has seen a decrease in carries in the second half of the season.
This season, the North Carolina defense allowed 438.2 yards and 31 points per game. They will need several key players Wednesday, especially in their struggling secondary. The list includes interception leader Storm Duck (10 PD, 3 INT), Tony Grimes ( 7 PD), and Cam’Ron Kelly (49 tackles, 1 INT). The Tar Heels will turn to Cedric Gray (1 PD, 1 INT) to step up and lead the secondary against Bo Nix and the Oregon offense. North Carolina does not get much pressure on opposing quarterbacks, with Kaimon Rucker leading the team with 2.5 sacks.
Free Pick: North Carolina +14
The Oregon Ducks have lost five of their last seven bowl games, and that trend could continue Wednesday. The Ducks are a much better overall team, but the loss of Christian Gonzalez will be huge against one of the top quarterbacks in FBS. May’s recent struggles are concerning, but without Gonzalez patrolling the secondary, it should open up the field for the freshmen. As great as Downs was this year, May seemed too locked onto him to end the year, and opposing defenses prayed on it. Green is a very talented receiver, and the Tar Heels tight ends are solid pass catchers. We don’t know if the Tar Heels can play well enough to get the win, but they can finish within two scores.
We’re taking the points to roll with North Carolina on Wednesday.