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Carolina College Bowl Game Guide 2019

 By Aaron Wayne White

December 17, 2019

The holiday season is upon us, and for college football fans, the holiday season means bowl season. Whether you are a dedicated alum that centers your holiday travel around your team’s bowl game, or a casual fan that puts the games on television as you wrap gifts, the postseason exhibitions have become a staple for the holiday season. 

Here are a few games that college football fans in the Carolinas should be particularly interested in:

Charlotte 49ers: Bahamas Bowl (vs. Buffalo), December 20, 2 p.m., Nassau, Bahamas

At the start of the decade, Charlotte didn’t even field a football team. At the close of the decade, not only do they field a team, but one that is bowl eligible. The 2019 squad featured a balanced offensive attack that was anchored by running back Benny Lemay, and while their defensive unit struggled at times this year, senior defensive end Alex Highsmith had a tremendous season leading Conference USA in sacks (14) and tackles for loss (21.5). But more than anything else, the 49ers have been invigorated by first year coach Will Healy, whose youth and enthusiasm has brought a new energy to the program. The culture is centered around winning– but having some fun while doing it, making a trip to the Bahamas to celebrate a stout 7-5 season seems like an appropriate way to end the season for Healy and the 49ers. 

Applachian State Mountaineers: New Orleans Bowl (vs. UAB), December 21, 9 p.m., New Orleans, Louisiana 

The Mountaineers most successful season since joining the FBS has been dulled by a bittersweet ending. First-year head coach Eli Drinkwitz announced he was leaving to become head coach at Missouri, leaving a bitter taste for App State players and fans, in large part because Drinkwitz said the App State job “was not a stepping stone” during his introductory press conference. Regardless, he led them to one of the best seasons in program history, but you wouldn’t know it by their bowl selection. No. 20 App State will face a lackluster UAB team in New Orleans. In spite of bowl games attempting to pit evenly matched teams against each other, App State is heavily favored to win against the Blazers. Having beaten both North Carolina and South Carolina this year, App State has proven they can play amongst the Power 5 teams, and the Sun Belt conference has done a disservice by not having a higher quality bowl bid for its champion. 

North Carolina Tar Heels: Military Bowl (vs. Temple), December 27, 12 p.m., Annapolis, Maryland

The return of the Mack was the biggest storyline for UNC football this year, and Mack Brown led the Tar Heels to an improved 6-6 season, with wins over rivals Duke and NC State. While the six wins were nice, UNC’s most impressive effort might have come in a loss to Clemson. The Tar Heels came a two-point conversion away from beating the defending National Champions– and they remain the only team this year that Clemson hasn’t beaten by 14 or more points. With a re-energized Mack Brown at the helm, freshman standout Sam Howell at quarterback, and an incoming recruiting class that is their best since 2011, UNC looks poised to continue their upward trajectory in 2020. 

Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Pinstripe Bowl (vs. Michigan State), December 27, 3:20 p.m., New York City, New York

Going into October, Wake Forest was 5-0 and fans were beginning to reminisce about the magic of the 2006 season. While this team didn’t quite recapture the magic, Dave Clauson’s squad went a respectable 8-4, and with their 4th consecutive winning season, the Demon Deacons have become one of the more consistent teams in the ACC. This year’s squad was spearheaded by their offense, which averaged an impressive 32.8 points per game and was led by star receivers Sage Surratt and Kendall Hinton, who combined for 14 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards receiving. While this season will end with a trip to New York City for the Pinstripe Bowl, it also proved that another trip to the Orange Bowl could be within reach for the Deacons. 

Clemson Tigers: Fiesta Bowl (vs. Ohio State), December 28, 8 p.m., Glendale, Arizona

For most teams, a 13-0 season would be absolutely remarkable, but for the Clemson Tigers, it’s par for the course. Dabo Swinney has created a juggernaut in Death Valley with a plethora of first-round prospects on both sides of the ball. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne lead the high-powered offense that averages over 45 points per game, while AJ Terrell and Tanner Muse bolster an elite secondary that only allows 138 passing yards per game, leading the country. Even though they have won two of the last three National Championships and rolled through the ACC to win the conference championship this year, Clemson has not been regarded as highly as LSU and Ohio State due to an underwhelming schedule, but they can silence any critics with a win in the Fiesta Bowl.

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