CHARLOTTE, N.C. – North Carolina (6-5, 5-3 ACC) meets Boston College (8-3, 4-2 Big East) in the Continental Tire Bowl Thursday at 1 p.m. on ESPN2. Stay tuned to <i>Inside Carolina</i> for a full post-game report from Bank of America Stadium ...<br><br><b>
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Meet the Eagles
Tire Bowl Audio: Heels Must Finish
Tire Bowl Practice Photos
'They Tire Bowl Practice Photos II
Tire Bowl Tune-Up
Fewer Than 2,000 Tickets Remain
Brown, Hedgecock Appreciate Recognition
The stage is set. The downtown streets have been blocked off since early Wednesday morning, as up to 66,000 UNC fans could ultimately flock to the Queen City. According to a Tire Bowl official, approximately 5,000 tickets allotted to BC were returned and put back up for sale about 36 hours before game time.
Officially, Carolina is the visiting team and will dress in the Panthers' opponents' dressing room. However, perhaps never before will so many UNC fans have been in one venue at one time. The stadium's capacity is listed at 73,258.
But unless the Tar Heels are able to notch their third consecutive win for the first time in three years, the above could make for a dense and downtrodden caravan on I-85 north shortly after sundown.
Determining which team has more pressure is difficult to decipher. Carolina is trying to go from one of the worst football teams in the country to a bowl champion over the course of one season, while Boston College is out to prove its co-conference championship is no paper tiger.
Both teams are healthy for the most part. UNC's tailback tandem of Chad Scott and Ronnie McGill will have their freshest legs available and BC quarterback Paul Peterson, who missed the Eagles' BCS-killing loss to Syracuse, is back in the lineup.
The match-up makes for great polarity: speed versus strength. The Tar Heels' explosive offense, which averaged 393.1 yards per game during the regular season; versus Boston College's unyielding defense that allowed just 16.3 points per game.
The game will also offer a sneak peak into what will be virtually an annual meeting between the two schools from here on out. UNC and BC will meet again in Kenan Stadium in less than a year from now.
Nuts and Bolts: Scoring Avg. (BC 23.5 vs. UNC 26.8), Rushing Avg. (BC 132.1 vs. UNC 182.7, Passing Avg. (BC 245.0 vs. UNC 210.4), Total Offense
Avg. (BC 377.1 vs. UNC 393.1), Scoring Def. Avg. (BC 16.3 vs. UNC 31.4), Rush Def. Avg. (BC 131.0 vs UNC 217.5), Pass Def. Avg. (BC 199.0 vs. UNC 226.2), Opponents' Total Off. Avg. (BC 330.0 vs. UNC 443.7).
Carolina and Marshall (which lost this year's bowl game) are the only two NCAA teams to have won their last five bowl games, while BC is the only program to win a bowl game in each of the last four years.
The Tar Heels improvement to 6-5, after last year's 2-10 debacle, marks the nation's second-best one-year turnaround behind UTEP.
BC has scored on its opening drive in eight of eleven games this season. Meanwhile, UNC's only opponents that didn't convert points on their first possessions were Utah, Wake Forest and Duke.
The two teams shared one common opponent in 2004: the Demon Deacons defeated BC 17-14 in Winston-Salem on Sept. 25, while the Tar Heels won at Wake 31-24 on Nov. 13.
After being one of the least penalized teams in the country for most of the season, Carolina has been flagged 23 times for 184 yards in its last three games. On average, UNC has given up 43 penalty yards per game; while the Eagles have been charged for 61.7 yards per game.
The Tar Heels have converted on 36 of 41 of their red zone attempts (.878), including 25 touchdowns and 11 field goals.
Boston College has tallied eight or more wins in its last four seasons. But other than an 8-5 finish in 2001, Carolina has not won eight games since going 11-1 in 1997 – Mack Brown's last year in Chapel Hill.
UNC has no players from Massachusetts and BC has no players from North Carolina. However, the Eagles' Nick Larsen and Pat Ross were prep school teammates of UNC‘s Kyle Ralph at Cincinnati's St. Xavier. Also, BC's Myran Hunter and Tar Heel freshman Calvin Darity both played at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla.
BC wide receiver Grant Adams has caught a pass in 29 consecutive games, while Jarwarski Pollock has a reception in 33 of his 34 career games. Pollock's streak of 32 straight contests with a catch ended against Wake, when he left with a concussion in the first half.