Sun Bowl betting preview: Stanford vs North Carolina

No. 18 Stanford Cardinal vs North Carolina Tar Heels (+3, 54)


Game to be played at Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas

Stanford star running back Christian McCaffrey was a key part of the team’s five-game winning streak to close the regular season, but the junior will not play when the Cardinal face North Carolina in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 30 in El Paso, Texas. McCaffrey, who leads the nation with 2,327 all-purpose yards and has posted 1,603 rushing yards, announced on Twitter that he will sit out the Sun Bowl to focus on his NFL draft preparation. McCaffrey’s early departure creates an opportunity for promising sophomore Bryce Love, who has three rushing touchdowns and averages 7.4 yards per carry.

The Sun Bowl may lack its original star power, but North Carolina junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky is an emerging NFL prospect who threw for nearly 3,500 yards and completed 69 percent of his passes with 28 touchdowns against four interceptions. The Tar Heels’ roller-coaster campaign included wins over Florida State, Miami and Pittsburgh as well as disappointing late-season losses to Duke and North Carolina State. “We weren’t able to overcome all the emotions we created for ourselves,” coach Larry Fedora told reporters. “There were a few games down the stretch that we didn’t play up to our capability. We didn’t make the ordinary plays that we needed to make.”

North Carolina needs a complete effort against Stanford, which fell out of the Pac-12 race with back-to-back losses to Washington and Washington State but ended the season by winning six of its final seven games. The Tar Heels allowed 235 yards per game on the ground and 28 rushing touchdowns, which doesn’t bode well against a Stanford offense that figures to give Love a heavy workload. If North Carolina’s front seven can bottle up Love, the Cardinal could struggle to keep pace with the Tar Heels’ explosive offense.

TV: 2 p.m. ET, CBS.

LINE HISTORY: The line opened with Stanford field goal favorites, that line was quickly bet up to 3.5, before fading late in the week to 2.5. The total opened at 54 and was briefly bet up to 54.5 than returned to the opening number. Check out the complete line history here.


WEATHER REPORT: It will be a cloudy day at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, with temperatures in the mid-50’s. 


Stanford – OT Casey Tucker (probable, undisclosed), TE Greg Taboada (probable, undisclosed), S Zach Hoffpauir (questionable, undisclosed), RB Christian McCaffrey (out, personal)

North Carolina – HB Elijah Hood (out, undisclosed)

ABOUT STANFORD (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS, 5-7 OU): After watching his offense struggle early in the season, Shaw replaced senior quarterback Ryan Burns with sophomore Keller Chryst, who provided an immediate spark and led the Cardinal to five straight wins while throwing nine touchdowns and one interception. Wide receivers JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin became key late-season factors for the Cardinal, who posted over 500 yards of total offense in each of their last three games. Defensive end Solomon Thomas recorded 55 tackles and seven sacks to lead a unit that allows 20.2 points per game and has been especially tough in the red zone.  

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS, 4-8 OU): Trubisky has a number of weapons at his disposal, including senior wideout Ryan Switzer, a dangerous punt returner and first-team All-ACC selection who leads the team with 91 receptions for 1,027 yards and five touchdowns. The Tar Heels also boast an effective ground game led by versatile junior Elijah Hood (eight touchdowns) and senior T.J. Logan, who added seven touchdowns on 101 carries. On defense, the Tar Heels are led by linemen Nazair Jones and Malik Carney along with linebacker Andre Smith, who recorded a team-high 110 tackles.


* Cardinal are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 neutral site games.
* Tar Heels are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games.
* Over is 4-0 in Cardinal last 4 neutral site games.
* Over is 4-0 in Tar Heels last 4 vs. Pac-12.

For a full list of hot and cold trends click here.

COVERS CONSENSUS: The bettors prefer the favorite in this matchup, with 53 percent of wagers on Stanford. As for the total, 60 percent of wagers are on the Over. Click here for in depth consensus data.


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