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Football First Look: Ducks on Holiday

Oregon Faces North Carolina in San Diego

NCAA Football: Oregon at Georgia Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon will head to sunny Southern California as its reward for the 2022 football season, there to play the North Carolina Tar Heels in San Diego’s Holiday Bowl on Wednesday, December 28. Although the post-Christmas game is perhaps not the Bowl Ducks fans had hoped for, it’s certainly a nice destination during a cool part of an Oregon winter. Later this month, Hythloday will have an extensive review of the Tar Heels - he has arranged to receive film on all 13 North Carolina games from the current season.

2022 Tar Heels

North Carolina finished the regular season at 9 - 4 overall. They qualified for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship game, where they were blown out by Clemson 39 - 10. Their other three losses came to Notre Dame (32-45) in late September, Georgia Tech (17-21) on November 19 and NC State (27-30) in a two-overtime heartbreaker on November 25. With the Championship Game loss, the Tar Heels are on a 3-game losing streak coming into the Holiday Bowl. North Carolina played an extraordinary number of close games, winning 5 games by either 2 or 3 points including what must have been an incredibly entertaining, defense-optional 63 - 61 victory over Appalachian State in early September.

The teams will get the first look at Petco Park as a football Bowl venue. The Bowl’s original San Diego Stadium home was torn down in 2020 following the Chargers move to Los Angeles. Petco is the home of the MLB’s San Diego Padres and this is not the first time such a stadium has been reconfigured for football. Oregon fans can expect some odd sightlines and some distance from the action, especially if their seats are in what would be the outfield or past where the first or third base bags would be down the baselines. Assuming no temporary seating is brought in, and the football field is not snugged up to one of the baselines, no fan may be very close to the field, certainly nowhere near as close as the first rows at Autzen Stadium. Bring your binoculars.

The Ducks in San Diego

Oregon has made 3 previous visits to the Holiday Bowl, compiling a 2 - 1 record. With its 4th appearance, Oregon will be tied for 3rd most appearances in the Bowl’s history. This will be North Carolina’s first trip to San Diego. Oregon’s wins include a 35 - 30 victory over then-#12 Texas in 2000 and a 42 - 31 win over #13 Oklahoma State in 2008. Joey Harrington was the offensive MVP in 2000 and Rashad Bauman won the defensive award. In the 2008 game, Jeremiah Masoli was the offensive MVP and Jairus Byrd (the man, not the meme) was the defensive player of the game. Jeremiah Johnson holds the Bowl record for longest touchdown run at 76 yards from 2008.

Bowl games these days are particularly difficult to handicap as it’s not clear which players will opt to actually play the game. The Holiday Bowl doesn’t have tremendous meaning for either team - although an Oregon win might vault the Ducks into another Top 10 finish in the national rankings. The Tar Heels may see this as a chance to salvage a season that got away from them late. So far, it appears Senior quarterback Bo Nix intends to play and should benefit from the extra time to heal. Sophomore Defensive Back Christian Gonzalez has opted to enter the NFL Draft and Justin Flowe is off to the Portal.

The Ducks will earn a gross payout for the school and the Conference in the millions of dollars. The Holiday Bowl has not been played since 2019 as both the 2020 and 2021 games were cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The total 2019 payout was $6.5 million.