Tar Heels tackle Pitt
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó A day after a heartbreaking loss cost it a BCS bid, No. 17 Pittsburgh had to settle for a trip to the Meineke Bowl to play North Carolina in its backyard.
The teams will meet on Dec. 26 at Bank of America Stadium, 21/2 hours from the Tar Heels’ campus and far from the destination the Panthers were thinking about when they had a 21-point lead over Cincinnati at home on Saturday.
The Bearcats rallied for a 45-44 win to capture the Big East title in a game decided by a botched extra point. Pittsburgh (9-3), once ranked in the top 10, was then passed over by the Gator Bowl for West Virginia. The Meineke Bowl, which has the third pick of Big East teams, selected the Panthers Sunday ahead of Rutgers.
“Our program is excited to play another football game and have the opportunity to potentially earn a 10th victory,” Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said.
The Gator Bowl’s maneuverings to get Florida State in coach Bobby Bowden’s final game to face his old school, West Virginia, trickled down to affect North Carolina, in the Atlantic Coast Conference bowl picture.
The Tar Heels (8-4) had been mentioned as a candidate for the bowls in Florida or the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., but instead will head to Charlotte for the second straight year. North Carolina, which has won four of its last five games, lost to West Virginia 31-30 in the 2008 Meineke Bowl.
Bowl officials took North Carolina again instead of Boston College.
“Our players are excited to continue their season and play so close to home,” North Carolina coach Butch Davis. “We had tremendous fan support at the game in 2008 and we will need that again this year against an outstanding Pittsburgh team.”
The Panthers, led by freshman running back Dion Lewis, will play in the Charlotte game for the second time. They lost to Virginia 23-16 in 2003.
Staff report See a gallery of photos from the parade here. The 38th Annual Cleveland Christmas Parade was held Saturday,... read more