North Carolina vs. Stanford Prediction, Sun Bowl Preview

North Carolina vs. Stanford prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins the Sun Bowl between the Tar Heels and Cardinal.

When: Friday, Dec. 30 – 2:00 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
TV Broadcast: CBS

The Tar Heels have surprised many this season with the kind of success they’ve seen. Not only is North Carolina (8-4) getting a shot in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, but it might end up having a top-five draft pick in Mitch Trubisky. He led the Heels to a 4-2 mark to close out the season. However, he was unable to lead them to a win over rival NC State in the last regular season game, 28-21.

And this certainly wasn’t the season most Cardinal fans were expecting. An unstable quarterback situation coupled with a banged up Christian McCaffrey hurt Stanford (9-3) for a while. But David Shaw and his staff found a way to get it together and finish the season on a high note with five straight wins over Arizona, Oregon State, Oregon, Cal and Rice.

There have been two meetings between North Carolina and Stanford all-time, and both programs have won once. The last time they met was in Stanford in 1998, and the Cardinal took that one, 37-34, one year after the Tar Heels won in Chapel Hill, 28-17.

What To Know About North Carolina

Trubisky has played extremely well this season, and it’s catapulted him to the top of the NFL Draft talk — above guys like Brad Kaaya and Deshaun Watson. Trubisky completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 3,468 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions.

That 7-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio was highlighted by Ryan Switzer, who leads the team with 91 receptions for 1,027 yards and five touchdowns. But the Tar Heels also found room to run on the ground thanks to Elijah Hood. He took 145 carries for 858 yards and eight touchdowns. And T.J. Logan was right behind him with 578 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 101 touches.

What to Know About Stanford

Of course, the Cardinal has its own stud in the backfield. McCaffrey was hobbled for a bit, but he’s ready to go and will look to cap off yet another great season for Stanford. He took 253 carries for 1,603 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

However, last season’s Heisman Trophy runner-up can do a thing or two in the passing game, too. McCaffrey caught 37 balls for 310 yards and three touchdowns. JJ Arcega-Whiteside led the team with five receiving touchdowns, and Trenton Irwin led the Cardinal with 36 receptions and 437 receiving yards.

They started off catching passes from Ryan Burns, but since Keller Chryst has taken over the starting job, Chryst has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 774 yards in five games. He’s also thrown nine touchdowns to only one interception.


Offense: North Carolina – Chryst has been playing well, and McCaffrey is a monster, but Trubisky has been slinging the football well all season long, and he’s the x-factor.

Defense: Stanford – The Cardinal is a little banged up, but it still ranks No. 36 in total defense (365.6 yards/game).

Special Teams: Stanford – McCaffrey is a legitimate threat to return a kick or punt to the house every time.

Coaching: North Carolina – Larry Fedora has done a great job this season, and he may have parlayed UNC’s season into a new head coaching job somewhere else.

Matchup To Watch

Mitch Trubisky vs. Christian McCaffrey

This is the kind of bowl game matchup we love to watch. It’s all about star power here. Trubisky has to be able to capitalize on the season he’s put together and spray the ball all over the field. If he can stretch Stanford’s secondary out between the sidelines, he can take shots deep. McCaffrey, on the other hand, has to make the most of his touches and gash UNC for big plays.

Betting Odds

Spread: No line as of publication
Over/Under: No line as of publication

North Carolina vs. Stanford Prediction

McCaffrey is going to have a great game for the Cardinal and will end his college career with more than 100 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns — assuming he leaves for the NFL after this game. However, he won’t be able to do it all for Stanford. Trubisky is going to be the bigger star, and will throw for more than 250 yards and three touchdowns. The Tar Heels will win a hard-fought game.

North Carolina vs. Stanford Score Prediction: North Carolina 38, Stanford 28

Campus Insiders Staff Picks

Brian Stultz: Stanford
Jeff Bartl: Stanford
Rich Cirminiello: Stanford
Robert Judin: North Carolina
Jordan Cornette: North Carolina

MORE: No. 1-128 College Football Rankings – Week 15