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Rutgers - North Carolina Q&A with Tar Heel Blog

To get the inside scoop on North Carolina, we welcome our fellow SB Nation blog to discuss the Quick Lane Bowl matchup against the Tar Heels.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

In our first bowl game as a B1G member, Rutgers heads to Detroit to face the North Carolina Tar Heels. To preview the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl, we welcome Brian Barbour of Tar Heel Blog to talk about expectations for the Heels, Larry Fedora, and more.

Q: What were the expectations for North Carolina this season, and how have fans reacted to the final record of the 2014 regular season?

Brian Barbour: There was some hope of it being slightly better than it turned out. There are two games in particular that really have colored how the season was perceived. One was the 70-41 loss to East Carolina and the other a 35-7 loss to rival NC State. The former showed UNC to be an awful defensive team and the latter revoke any good will UNC had built by beating Georgia Tech, Pitt and Duke.

Q: Larry Fedora is about to cap off his third season in Chapel Hill. Do you believe that he is a long term answer for the Tar Heels, or is his seat getting warm?

Brian: Next season is probably going to answer that question. The recruiting appears to be heading in the right direction and he is making the move to find a new defensive coordinator after a historically awful season on that side of the ball. UNC is coming off NCAA sanctions though the possibility exists for more in the wake of the Wainstein Report. He will have the offensive personnel in 2015 and the schedule to put together a solid showing if the defense can improve. The current season is rock bottom after sanctions. Next season needs to be proof Fedora can build the program up and get some momentum rolling. If not, then it might be time to start thinking about a different direction.

Q: QB Marquise Williams is the unquestioned leader of the UNC offense, accounting for 32 total touchdowns this year and leading the team in rushing. Is he a better passer, better runner, or a bit of both?

Brian: He is a streaky passer in the same way a basketball player might be a streaky shooter. For example, in the win over Pitt, Williams was 4-16 on his first 16 passes then completed 16 straight to right the ship. The key for Williams is getting a clean pocket and time to make good decisions. NC State, Virginia and Miami all did an excellent job of getting to him and disrupting the pocket. That sort of thing makes him one dimensional. As for his mobility, he's big, strong and fast enough to make defenders miss, extend plays or take off for a long run. In that respect that's probably his strength but the combination of both is what makes him most effective.

Q: If the Knights can manage to stop Marquise Williams, how else can the Tar Heels attack the RU defense?

Brian: If Rutgers stops Williams, that job is probably done. If Williams isn't effective then the next step would be to stop the running game. T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood are top notch running backs though Hood was injured for about half the season. UNC's offensive line has been a weak spot all season so straight rushing plays might prove difficult. Because of the OL play, UNC uses a lot of quick hitting passes and calls plays out of the perimeter. Ryan Switzer on the tunnel screen is also a favorite play since he has the elusiveness to turn a 5 yard catch into a 70 yard touchdown run.

Q: Like Rutgers, North Carolina has struggled mightily on defense. What is the weakest part of the defense, and what unit has the best chance for success?

Brian: It's all bad. The secondary has often been confused and blows coverages on a regular basis. In the loss to Clemson, UNC had a situation where they left not one but two Tiger WRs streaking downfield wide open. There have been incredible breakdowns all season long. The catch here is with Vic Koenning gone and Dan Disch handling the defense perhaps some of that confusion will be cleared up. Still, UNC's corners have issues in coverage and are prone to being caught with their backs to the ball resulting in pass interference being called. UNC also has trouble stopping the run as Miami's Duke Johnson and Pitt's James Conner have shown. The defensive line simply isn't good enough to bottle up the run game. The bottom line is if a team can do more than one thing well, it will hurt. Any time UNC has had to pick a poison it gets burned in other areas.

Q: Will there be a large UNC fan contingent in Detroit for the game?

Brian: Doubtful though Detroit Lion and former Tar Heel Eric Ebron might be hanging around.

Q: Prediction?

Brian: UNC 42 Rutgers 35. UNC can score points but can't stop anyone. Turnovers probably decide this one or whoever gets the ball last.

A huge thank you to Brian Barbour for collaborating on this great Q&A, especially during the holiday season. For more coverage on the North Carolina Tar Heels, head on over to Tar Heel Blog.