UNC and Oregon set for Holiday Bowl shootout

2022 Holiday Bowl

Credit: Petco Park

Game Details

Date: Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Time: 5:00 pm PT

Channel: FOX

Betting Line: Oregon -14.5, Over/Under 73.5 (BetMGM Sportsbook)

Location: Petco Park (San Diego, CA)

Records: UNC 9-4 (6-2), Oregon 9-3 (7-2)

Sponsor: San Diego County Credit Union

The 43rd annual Holiday Bowl will match up the high-powered offenses of the North Carolina Tar Heels (ACC) and the 15th-ranked Oregon Ducks (Pac-12).

Last year’s version was scheduled to be the first Holiday Bowl played at Petco Park, the baseball stadium for the San Diego Padres. However, a COVID-19 outbreak within the UCLA roster caused them to forfeit the game hours before kickoff. 

This will be the first-ever football game between the two schools. 

Oregon is looking to secure its second straight 10-win season and 13th since 2000 in head coach Dan Lanning’s first season. It will be the Ducks’ fourth appearance in the Holiday Bowl and first since a 42-31 win over Oklahoma State in 2008. 

The Ducks were in line to finish in the top two in the Pac-12 and play for the conference championship, but a 38-34 loss to interstate rival Oregon State in the final game of the regular season dashed those hopes. 

North Carolina will appear in a bowl game for the fourth year in a row and the 37th time in program history. The Tar Heels are 15-21 all-time in the postseason but have yet to play in a prior Holiday Bowl. This will be the 26th bowl game for head coach Mack Brown, who owns a 15-10 record in postseason games.

The Tar Heels won the ACC’s Coastal Division but lost to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, 39-10.

The team’s starting quarterbacks are two of only three players in FBS with at least 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards this season. UTSA’s Frank Harris is the third.  

When UNC has the ball: Advantage – UNC

Offense

The Tar Heels scored 35 points per game (23rd) and racked up 473.6 total yards per game (15th). They are led by redshirt freshman quarterback Drake Maye (First Team All-ACC), who became the second player in ACC history to be named Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Offensive Rookie of the Year (the other was Jameis Winston at Florida State).  

Maye completed 324 of 482 passes (67.2%) for 4,115 yards (UNC single-season record), 35 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Maye also leads the team in rushing with 653 yards and seven touchdowns. His 42 total touchdowns are tied for third amongst Power 5 players.

Wide receiver Josh Downs (First Team All-ACC) caught 94 passes (led the ACC) for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns. He set an ACC record with 37 receptions over a three-game span earlier this year. However, Downs announced on December 9th that he is opting out of playing in the game and will enter the 2023 NFL Draft. 

Wide receiver Antoine Green (Third Team All-ACC) was a big play receiver for the Tar Heels, catching 43 passes for 798 yards and seven touchdowns. His 18.56 yards per catch led the team and was among the leaders in FBS, along with five catches of 50+ yards. 

Tight end Bryson Nesbit (Honorable Mention All-ACC) added 32 receptions for 470 yards and three touchdowns. 

Two of UNC’s offensive linemen, Asim Richards (Third Team) and Corey Gaynor (Honorable Mention), earned All-ACC honors. 

The Tar Heels allowed 38 sacks this season, an average of 2.92 per game, which ranked tied for 103rd in FBS.

Defense

The Ducks’ defense allowed 27.42 points per game (T-76th) and 386.1 total yards per game (75th). 

The strength of the Duck’s defense in 2022 was stopping the run and forcing interceptions. They ranked 32nd nationally, allowing only 125.5 rushing yards per game, and allowed more than 150 rushing yards in a game just three times.

Even better, the Ducks were tied for sixth nationally with 16 interceptions. Defensive back Christian Gonzalez (First Team All-Pac 12) picked off four, and Trikweze Bridges hauled in three. 

Defensive back Bennett Williams led the team with 67 tackles and two forced fumbles. Linebacker Noah Sewell (Second Team All-Pac12) and Jeffrey Bassa were tied for second with 56 tackles and added 5.5 and three tackles for loss, respectively. 

Holiday Bowl

Defensive end Brandon Dorlus (Second Team All-Pac 12) led the team with nine tackles for loss, while DJ Johnson led with six sacks. Per Pro Football Focus, Dorlus had 35 QB hurries, tied for eighth among all Power 5 defenders. 

Despite Johnson’s six sacks, the rest of the team only collected ten, for a total of 16 for the season. The team average of 1.33 sacks per game was the sixth worst in FBS this season. 

Oregon will be without three of its top defenders for this matchup as Gonzalez, Johnson, and Sewell are opting out of playing in the game in anticipation of preparing for the 2023 NFL Draft. 

When Oregon has the ball: Advantage – Oregon

Offense

Oregon is 4th in the nation averaging 507.8 total yards per game and 8th with 6.94 total yards per play. The Ducks are one of just four FBS teams to score 40-plus points at least eight times, averaging 39.7 points per game (9th).

Quarterback Bo Nix, who announced he will return to Oregon for one more season in 2023, is the only FBS player this season to have at least 27 passing TDs and 14 rushing TDs. His 42 total touchdowns, which also includes one receiving score, are tied for 3rd among all FBS players and his 71.5 completion percentage is 2nd. 

While they did not have a 1,000-yard rusher, the Ducks had three players rush for at least 500 on their way to the 14th-best rushing offense in FBS (216.33 yards per game). 

Bucky Irving led the way with 906 rushing yards (three touchdowns), followed by Noah Whittington with 754 (five touchdowns), and Nix added 504. 

Sophomore wide receiver Troy Franklin (Second Team All-Pac12) caught 56 passes for 867 yards and eight touchdowns. The only other player with more than three receiving touchdowns was Terrance Ferguson, with five. 

The offense would not have been able to produce at the rate it did without their stellar offensive line, leading the nation with just four sacks allowed. Four of the five offensive linemen for the Ducks earned All-Pac 12 honors, led by center Alex Forsyth and left tackle T.J. Bass on the First Team and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and Ryan Walk as Honorable Mention.

Oregon dominated the “Middle Eight” (last four minutes of the first half and first four minutes of the second half), leading the nation with +7.8 points per game scoring differential. They were also tied for 12th in the fewest turnovers committed (11). 

Defense

The Tar Heels’ defense allowed 31 points per game (105th) and 438.2 total yards per game (116th). 

Linebacker Cedric Gray (First Team All-ACC) led all Power 5 defenders with 137 tackles (8th among all FBS defenders). Gray also added ten tackles for loss, a sack, two interceptions, five pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.  

Defensive Back Storm Duck (Second Team All-ACC) had nine pass breakups and three interceptions while adding 46 tackles, but entered the transfer portal as a graduate transfer after the ACC Championship Game and will not play for the Tar Heels in this matchup. 

Linebacker Power Echols (Honorable Mention All-ACC) posted 98 tackles in his first year as a starter, second-best on the team. He added five tackles for loss and two sacks. 

Like the Ducks, the Tar Heels collected only 16 sacks in 2022, and their team average of 1.23 sacks per game was the fourth worst in FBS this season. Noah Taylor led the team with 3.5 sacks. 


Special Teams: Advantage – UNC

UNC

Kicker Noah Burnette made 13 of 18 field goals, but four of his five misses were from less than 40 yards out. Punter Ben Kiernan (Third Team All-ACC) averaged 46.91 yards per punt, which would rank him 2nd in the nation if he had enough punts to qualify. Josh Downs and Cam’ron Kelly combined to return 15 punts for a 13.13 average. The Tar Heels’ lone special teams touchdown came on a 43-yard onside kick return by Bryson Nesbit.

Oregon

Kicker Camden Lewis made his first nine field goals to start the season and finished 14 of 15, earning Honorable Mention All-Pac12. His only miss was from 54 yards out. The Ducks have had three different players punt at least seven times this season, with Ross James holding the highest yards per punt average (41.9). Only two of the Ducks’ 30 punt attempts in 2022 were longer than 50 yards. Kris Hutson is the primary kick returner for the Ducks, returning 21 kickoffs for a 19.8 average and nine punts for a 5.1 average. 

San Diego Connection

UNC

  • Don Chapman, Senior Defensive Back, Lincoln High

Oregon

  • Jahlil Florence, Freshman Defensive Back, Lincoln High
  • Jalil Tucker, Freshman Defensive Back, Lincoln High
  • Darren Barkins, Redshirt Freshman Defensive Back, Mater Dei Catholic High
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Andre Haghverdian on Email
Andre Haghverdian
Avid sports fan and historian of basketball, baseball, football and soccer. UC San Diego and San Diego State alumni living in America's Finest City. Diverse team following across multiple sports leagues, but Aztecs come first in college athletics.
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