Tuesday, December 27, 2022

2022 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Preview: Oregon vs. North Carolina

Following last year's unexpected cancellation, the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl will finally be played at Petco Park. The Oregon Ducks and the North Carolina Tar Heels meet for the first time ever in what will be the first football game ever played at the home of the Padres.

Oregon (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12) enters its fourth Holiday Bowl appearance with a 9-3 record and a lot of optimism surrounding the program. They will be headed by quarterback Bo Nix, who recently revealed his intention to play in this game and return to Eugene for another season. Nix has been an important contributor for the Ducks, completing more than 71% of his throws for 3,388 yards and 27 touchdowns while also rushing for 504 yards and 14 scores. 

North Carolina (9-4, 6-2 ACC) is looking to end the season on a high note after dropping its last three games entering this contest, including a 39-10 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship. In addition, the Tar Heels have lost three starting defensive backs to the transfer portal, and receiver Josh Downs has opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. Despite improving in the second half of the season, North Carolina struggled on defense, finishing worst in the ACC in scoring, total defense, and pass defense, and 12th in run defense.

Drake Maye of North Carolina enters the game as the nation's leading freshman in passing yards (4,115), touchdowns (35), and efficiency (159.99). Maye also put up a team-leading 653 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Oregon's defense may struggle to contain Maye without the help of standout cornerback Christian Gonzalez, who is entering the 2023 NFL Draft, as well as a slew of defensive ends who decided to transfer this month. Maye, on the other hand, will be missing his leading receiver, Josh Downs, who has also opted out of the game to prepare for the draft. Receiver Antoine Green and tight end Bryson Nesbit will be available as key targets for UNC's offense.

With both teams relying on their passing offenses and confronting weaknesses in their pass defenses, the first football game at Petco Park should be a shootout.

Players from San Diego

Don Chapman, a Lincoln High alum who helped lead the program to its first state championship appearance in 2018, is a senior safety for North Carolina. He has 18 solo tackles, two forced fumbles, and three passes defended this season.

The Ducks have a few former Hornets on their roster in Jalil Tucker and Jahlil Florence, both freshman defensive backs. Former Mater Dei Catholic athlete Darren Barkins is also a redshirt freshman for Oregon. In eight games this season, Barkins had three solo tackles and one pass defense.

Byron Cardwell, a Morse High alum and highly recruited running back, recently announced his intention to transfer after two seasons at Oregon. Cardwell appeared in just two games for the Ducks this season, accumulating 76 yards and one touchdown on 11 rushes, as well as 34 yards and a touchdown on four catches.

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