The 2022 Holiday Bowl promises to provide plenty of excitement as this year's game features two of the top offenses in the country led by two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the nation as North Carolina faces off vs. No. 15 Oregon.
While the game serves as an exciting conclusion for two nine-win teams in 2022, the battle also serves as a way to kick-start the debate for best player in the country for 2023 now that both Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye will be back to lead their respective teams next season. Nix is coming off his best season yet as a college player, and could have declared for the NFL Draft but instead chose to come back to return for his final year of eligibility.
Maye, on the other hand, is not yet draft-eligible but was considered potentially the most significant transfer portal target should he decide to leave Chapel Hill, North Carolina. But with rumors swirling and fan bases elsewhere salivating at the chance to see their favorite team land a future first-round NFL Draft talent at quarterback, Maye -- whose family connections to the university include his former quarterback father and two basketball-playing brothers -- announced he had no plans of playing anywhere else.
Now these two superstar signal callers will enter 2023 as two of the top names in the Heisman Trophy race, making this a showcase spot for two players that begin next season in the conversation for being the best in the country.
How to watch Holiday Bowl live
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 28 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Petco Park -- San Diego, Calif.
TV: FOX | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Oregon vs. North Carolina: Need to know
Dan Lanning coming off impressive head-coaching debut: There were plenty of coaches who achieved success in 2022 during their first year at a new school. Brian Kelly (LSU) and Lincoln Riley (USC) both led their teams to a conference championship game appearance, Kalen DeBoer led Washington to only the program's fourth 10-win season since 2001 and Sonny Dykes has TCU in the College Football Playoff. But all of those examples were great first-year coaching jobs by individuals with previous head-coaching experience. Lanning taking over at Oregon and leading the Ducks to a 9-3 season in his first year ever being a head coach at the college level is arguably as impressive as those other Year 1 showings, making the 36-year old coach one of the rising stars in the sport. Lanning was beat out by two rivals for Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors -- DeBoer and Oregon State's Jonathan Smith shared the award -- but the fans in Eugene wouldn't trade their coach for either after seeing the on-field success followed by a string of recruiting wins in December.
Maye, Tar Heels looking for a bounce back: On the morning of Saturday, Nov. 19, North Carolina was 9-1 and ranked No. 13 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. Having already clinched the ACC Coastal Division the week prior with a win over Wake Forest, the Tar Heels were in the hunt for a conference championship with a quarterback in Maye who was surging in the Heisman Trophy picture. North Carolina even led 17-0 with three minutes left in the second quarter of that game on Nov. 19 but proceeded to blow that lead against Georgia Tech. That loss was followed with a three-point, double-overtime loss to NC State in the regular-season finale and then a 39-10 defeat against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.
The losing streak to finish the year was followed by a flurry of transfer portal exits and the departure of offensive coordinator Phil Longo. Maye's commitment for 2023 seemed to reverse the momentum for the Tar Heels off the field, but now there's a chance to make a statement on the field with a bowl win to snap the three-game skid. The Tar Heels star quarterback is in the spotlight here as well considering he finished with just one touchdown to four interceptions in those three losses.
Quarterbacks should have matchup edge on both sides: One reason to highlight the quarterbacks in this matchup is not the star power and what it means for 2023, rather the matchup itself and how it seems to favor both offenses having a big day. Nix is among the nation's leaders in total touchdowns (42) and completion percentage (71.5), boasting more rushing touchdowns (14) than any other FBS quarterback and a passer rating that ranks seventh nationally. He's going to be facing a North Carolina defense that ranks No. 121 among 131 FBS teams in pass yards allowed per game (276.4) and No. 105 in scoring defense, giving up 31.0 points per game on the season.
Maye ranks fourth nationally in passing yards per game (316.5) and sixth in passing touchdowns (35), and after leading the Tar Heels to an ACC Coastal title, became the first Tar Heel since Lawrence Taylor to be named ACC Player of the Year. He's going to be facing an Oregon defense that ranks No. 107 nationally in pass yards allowed per game (260.6) and gave up an average of 29.5 points across 10 games against Power Five competition. Throw in some opt outs for both secondaries due to the NFL Draft and transfer portal, and we've got all the ingredients for both quarterbacks to put up big numbers.
Holiday Bowl prediction, picks
Two defenses that weren't great during the season now each have depth issues because of the NFL Draft and transfer portal, and both quarterbacks have plenty of motivation to show out given their commitment to be back in 2023. While 14.5 points seems like too many for a game that I think is going to be a shootout, the best bet is to stick with that prediction that there will be plenty of points. Anything under 77 might be too low considering the matchup. Prediction: Over 74
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