No Love lost: How can UNC stop the one who got away?


Christian McCaffrey’s decision to sit out the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30 might be seen on the surface as a very good thing for North Carolina’s defense. UNC, though, must now to find a way to stop North Carolina native Bryce Love.

Love, one of UNC’s top targets two years ago, would have started for several programs in the Pac-12 — and the ACC, for that matter — the past couple seasons. But Love made the most of his role as McCaffrey’s lead backup, sending notice to his teammates, as well as Stanford’s opponents, that he’s the future of the Cardinal offensive backfield.

Love appeared in 11 of Stanford’s 12 regular-season games this fall, rushing for 664 yards on 90 carries — good for 7.4 yards per carry. Love also averaged over seven yards per carry in 2015 as a true freshman, with 226 yards on 29 carries (7.8 YPG).

The Tar Heels are heading to El Paso as one of the ACC’s worst run defenses. UNC are surrendering an average of 4.59 yards per rushing attempt.

Opponents ran the ball a total of 616 times against the Tar Heels — an average of 51.3 rush attempts per contest. That’s over 100 rushing attempts more than any other ACC team defended over the course of the season.

Love wasn’t quite as effective catching passes out of the backfield as he was running the ball, making seven catches for 34 yards. But considering that McCaffrey caught 37 passes this season to lead the Cardinal offense, the Stanford coaches will be looking for ways to get Love involved in the passing game.

The Tar Heels are preparing to see a lot of Love on the FieldTurf of the Sun Bowl. After getting shredded on the ground by Baylor in last year’s bowl, they’ll be looking to avoid a similar fate at the hands of one who got away.