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** Most bowl projections leading into Sunday's BCS selection show had North Carolina penciled into the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 28. Due to the ACC's "one-win" rule, N.C. State was the only ACC bowl-eligible team that UNC could pass in the bowl order and the Wolfpack were expected to end up in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.
But while fans and media members were busy reserving rooms and checking flights for Washington, the BCS did what it does best – create chaos. Virginia Tech became the first ACC at-large team to earn a BCS bid after getting blasted, 38-10, by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.
As a result, the ACC pecking order was adjusted across the board by one bowl and UNC ended up in Shreveport, La. for a Dec. 26 matchup with Missouri.
Airline tickets exceeding $800 out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport, as well as the bowl game kicking off the day after Christmas, led to many fans on Inside Carolina's message boards lament the bowl destination.
But the Tar Heels refused to buy into that negativity on Monday.
"We were excited just to go to any bowl game," Renner said. "There were a lot of games thrown out there, but last night when we finally got the full word where we were going, it was awesome. The whole locker room down there was excited to play another game and get extra practice and be together as a team."
Withers, as usual, provided a more direct answer: "I'm excited to be playing the postseason – there's a lot of teams that aren't."
North Carolina will depart Chapel Hill for Shreveport on Dec. 22. The Independence Bowl marks the second time in three years that UNC has played on Dec. 26, forcing the Tar Heels to spend Christmas on the road.
"When you're in college athletics, especially college football around bowl time, you get used to it," Withers said. "I've spent several Christmases at bowl sites, so it's part of the landscape of it. I think we'll have a great time in Shreveport. It's a fun town. There's a lot of things to do, adult things to do. So we'll have to be careful, but we'll have fun. We'll make sure it's a fun time for our kids."
** Withers indicated that bowl practice will start this week and that his staff will have to work those practices around the end of class and the start of exams.
The NCAA allows Division I football programs 15 extra practices to prepare for postseason play, but North Carolina's early bowl game means that those 15 practices must occur over the next 20 days.
While former head coach Butch Davis fell short of that 15-practice total in '09 and '10, Withers is hoping to take advantage of the full allotment.
"By the time we play the bowl, we will try," Withers said.
** Withers confirmed that he officially interviewed for the UNC permanent head coaching position last week with the "interview committee."
When asked how the interview went, Withers replied: "I hope it went good."
He was adamant that the ongoing coaching search will not distract his staff or his roster during bowl prep.
"[Sunday] was 130 days since I took this job and I haven't let it be a distraction for 130 days, [I'm at] 131, so I promise you I'm not going to let it be a distraction," Withers said.
Withers could not confirm that he would definitely be coaching the bowl game on Dec. 26.
"I plan on coaching the bowl game, but football coaches are day-to-day," Withers said.
** North Carolina's senior class has the opportunity to etch its year into the UNC record books. A win over Missouri would give the Tar Heels an 8-5 record for the fourth straight season, marking only the third time in UNC history that a class won at least eight games four years in a row.
"When you go to school and you play college athletics, you want to be playing in the postseason every opportunity you get," Withers said. "For these seniors to have the opportunity to play in four straight bowls is phenomenal and I'm excited for them."
** Withers also provided some insight into what he's learned during his time as the head coach of a major Division I football program.
"Probably the biggest thing in any job you do, and I've talked to a lot of guys here the last couple of weeks, is being yourself," Withers said. "Make sure you continue to be yourself and not try to be anything that you're not. I get up every day and I try to make sure that I'm me when I leave and that I'm not going to change while I'm at the job. I'm not going to try to be something that I'm not. Every day, that was something that I wanted to make sure that I did."