The first ever Quick Lane Bowl will take place on Dec. 26 between Rutgers and North Carolina. Matching the Big Ten with the ACC, the new bowl has replaced the Motor City Bowl as Detroit’s bowl game. In its first year, the Quick Lane Bowl has a great matchup between a Rutgers team that surprised in its first year in the Big Ten and a talented yet disappointing North Carolina outfit.
Rutgers enters the Quick Lane Bowl coming off a huge comeback victory at Maryland. The Scarlet Knights suffered a midseason swoon losing to the upper crust of the Big Ten but also notched a historic win over Michigan. Much of Rutgers’ success or failure has rested on the arm of QB Gary Nova. After star RB Paul James was lost for the season in September, Rutgers has been unable to find a featured ball carrier, instead relying on the passing game. In victory, Nova has 19 TDs and just two interceptions, while in losses he has mustered just one touchdown and thrown 10 interceptions.
On the other side of the field, an erratic North Carolina team has struggled mightily to defend. The Tar Heels allow 38.9 points per game, 119th in the country. North Carolina’s defensive problems came to a head in an embarrassing 70-41 defeat to East Carolina. While there have been some strong performances, notably a 45-20 rout of Duke, North Carolina limped to the finish line with another humiliating loss on rivalry weekend against NC State.
The Tar Heels’ main issue this season has been stopping the run, but they got a favorable matchup with Rutgers. If the Scarlet Knights can get the running game going, Nova should have open receivers all day long. It should be a light crowd at Ford Field considering the middling teams and distance to travel for the fanbases, but Rutgers has more positive momentum and won a neutral site game against Washington State to start the season. Expect an inspired effort from Rutgers to tip the scale against an uneven Tar Heel team.
Prediction: Rutgers 38, North Carolina 34