North Carolina will try to put six seasons of struggles in its rear-view mirror today when it plays West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Both teams are 8-4 but appear to have different immediate futures. UNC, in its second season under Coach Butch Davis, has a team dominated by freshmen and sophomores. West Virginia, trying for its fourth consecutive bowl victory, has 19 seniors.
Tar Heels' goal is a 'national-caliber' program
The Winston-Salem Journal
North Carolina coach Butch Davis has often thought of Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin over the last two years while watching Hakeem Nicks perform for the Tar Heels.
Davis did so again Friday when asked to compare UNC's all-time receiving leader to other greats he's been associated with during his coaching career. That list includes Irvin, who played for the 1987 national champion Miami Hurricanes and later for the NFL Dallas Cowboys during periods when Davis served as defensive coordinator.
Bowl could be last game for Nicks as a Tar Heel
The Fayetteville Observer
North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks hopes he'll be one step closer to his ultimate dream when he walks into Bank of America Stadium for the Meineke Bowl today. His hopes stretch beyond playing West Virginia (8-4), even though he has waited three years to compete in a bowl game. They extend past impressing pro scouts one more time before he decides whether to leave school early for the NFL.
Ultimately, the dream leads off the field, to his desire to bring his siblings together.
UNC's giving receiver
The News and Observer
For North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks, this year's Christmas celebration wasn't all that different than years past. He got to see his father, stepmother, grandparents and siblings.
"I saw a little bit of everybody," Nicks said.
But this year, it wasn't the usual holiday trip home. With his Tar Heels in town for today's Meineke Car Care Bowl, it was business. He stayed in a hotel with teammates and had the bulk of his holiday taken up with practice.
Which was just fine, according to the junior standout.
Best gift for Tar Heels' Nicks: Bowl bid
The Burlington Times-News
Mark Paschal's football playing days are over, but North Carolina coach Butch Davis isn't ready for the senior's career to end.
Heels star looks in new direction
The Charlotte Observer
Garrett Reynold could have stayed home to follow in the footsteps of his father, Art Reynolds, and his uncle, Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds, by playing for Tennessee.
"I was hoping he'd go there, just for selfish reasons," said Art Reynolds, who played linebacker for the Vols from 1971-73. "I wouldn't have to drive as far. It would have been nice, but he went to a place he wanted to go, and I think that's great."
But the Vols offered only a "preferred walk-on" spot, leaving the former Carter High School standout to choose North Carolina over Virginia Tech and Nebraska.
Proud to be blue: Reynolds has been a success story at North Carolina
The Knoxville News
To find a time as hopeful as the present for Carolina, you've probably got to go back to 1982, when the Tar Heels won the Sun Bowl.
Nobody's ready to predict BCS national titles for the Heels, but serious contention for the league championship is already feasible. If they had maintained a 17-3 lead on Virginia Tech back in September, the Heels might be preparing for the Orange Bowl now.
For the time being, they're happy with the Meineke Car Care Bowl, their mood probably eased by faith in an intriguing future.
Future so bright, Heels wearing shades
The Greensboro News-Record
The televisions in North Carolina's Kenan Football Center generally shuffle through any number of messages, whether it's the day's itinerary for players or progress reports on how former Tar Heel standouts are doing in the NFL.
Tar Heels look to finish strong, show the progress of the Butch Davis Era
The Durham Herald-Sun
One particular invitee groused. A bowl named for, what, a line of muffler shops? A destination and a date, Dec. 27, way off the radar of college postseason prestige?
And that was just North Carolina's perspective.
Tar Heels muffle disappointment as they face WVU
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On paper, it couldn't be more evenly matched.
West Virginia University and North Carolina match 8-4 records in today's 1 p.m. Meineke Car Car Bowl at Bank of America Stadium.
WVU ready for game against Tar Heels
The Times-West Virginian
West Virginia had just dropped its second consecutive game, a heartbreaking overtime defeat at Colorado, and coach Bill Stewart's critics were howling as he gathered the team.
"We were 1-2 and everybody was wanting to run us out of town," Stewart recalled Friday. "I never got upset one bit because we're family, you know? ... Our young men were so resilient that night in Boulder. We all grabbed hands with tears in our eyes and hurting in such a tough way.
"We bonded as a football team -- and we went on a pretty good run."
Heels standing in White's way
The Associated Press