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Dawg Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers vs North Carolina Tar Heels in the Duke's Mayo Bowl

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

This matchup is between a pair of 8-4 teams, the North Carolina Tar Heels and the West Virginia Mountaineers for this season's Duke's Mayo Bowl. The season was projected to be a rough season for Neal Brown and the Mountaineers. The Associated Press had predicted them to finish dead last in the Big 12, instead, they finished fifth in the conference. Meanwhile, North Carolina was predicted to finish third in the ACC but ended up finishing seventh.

Broadcast information

Date: December 27th, 2023

Time: 5:30 PM EST

Channel: ESPN

Broadcasters: Matt Barrie, Dan Mullen, and Harry Lyles Jr.

ESPN Radio: Mike Couzens and Charles Arbuckle

Key Players Not Playing - North Carolina

Drake Maye- Quarterback (NFL Draft)

Devontez Walker- Wide Receiver (NFL Draft)

Bryson Nesbit- Tight End (Injury)

Cedric Gray- Linebacker (NFL Draft)

Alijah Huzzie- Defensive Back (Portal)

Key Players Not Playing- West Virginia

CJ Donaldson- Running Back (Injury)

Zach Frazier- Center (Injury)

Players to Watch: West Virginia

Garrett Greene - QB West Virginia - A very solid year with 2,178 yards passing with 15 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. The Mountaineers offense is predicated on Greene having success.

Jahiem White - RB West Virginia - The Mountaineers will miss Donaldson but White has almost as many yards with fewer carries. Averaging 8.2 yards per carry, expect White to be a heavy feature in this game.

Beanie Bishop Jr. - CB West Virginia - A true shutdown corner with 20 PD & 4 INTs on the year. Expect UNC to avoid his side of the field whenever possible.

Players to Watch: North Carolina

Power Echols - LB North Carolina - Enters bowl game second on the team in tackles (91 total), behind fellow linebacker Cedric Gray. The linebacker position will have to be ready to stop a solid rushing attack from West Virginia.

Omarion Hampton - RB North Carolina - Just a sophomore but the nation's 5th leading rusher, with 1442 yards on the season. He'll exceed 1,500 yards and find the end zone at least once in this one.

Conner Harrell - QB North Carolina - Only attempted 6 passes this season. Rushed for almost as many yards as he's thrown for. Could be the X-factor in this one.

Key Match-ups

North Carolina comes in with the #8 passing offense in the country, however, with Maye out, the air attack will take an obvious hit. Expect both teams to pile up the rushing yards as they come in at #3 (WVU) and #17 (UNC) respectively. Both defenses allow over 144 yards per game to opposing offenses. WVU had three players with over 700 yards on the ground this season. Only two of those players will play in this one but expect a stronger attack from the Mountaineers with White and Greene capable of picking up first downs with their legs. First-time starter Conner Harrell will attempt to do the same as his counterpart in Greene, but without as much experience expect Hampton to carry a heavy load for the Heels. The stronger rushing game will allow the Mountaineers to stay in control of the clock for this one, suffocating a less experienced offense from the Heels, who are already on a two-game slide.

Prediction - Duke's Mayo Bowl

This matchup seems to be trending in West Virginia's favor, having all contributors available for this game (besides CJ Donaldson and Zach Frazier, who are out due to injury). Meanwhile, North Carolina has a list of guys unavailable, including future NFL draft pick, Drake Maye. West Virginia has the intangibles to win this game to help cool off Neal Brown's hot seat. West Virginia wins 34-17.

West Virginia 34 North Carolina 17

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