N.C. State will complete a recent bowl circle while North Carolina will go back to what once was a familiar postseason spot.
The Wolfpack (6-6) will face Vanderbilt (6-6) in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 26. UNC (8-4) will go to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 30 to play Stanford (9-3).
It’s the third time in four bowl games N.C. State will be matched up with an SEC team. It lost to Mississippi State last year, 51-28, in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
N.C. State and Vanderbilt met in the 2012 Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. That was the year N.C. State fired coach Tom O’Brien after the regular season and hired Dave Doeren.
Doeren didn’t coach in that game, a 38-24 Wolfpack loss, but he will get his turn against the Commodores, who closed the season with upset wins over Ole Miss (38-17) and Tennessee (45-34) to qualify for the game.
Overall, N.C State has lost five straight to SEC foes since beating South Carolina in 1999.
This will be the Tar Heels’ fifth trip to the Sun Bowl but first since 1994. The Heels have gone to the postseason four straight years under coach Larry Fedora.
They were ineligible for the postseason in Fedora’s first season in 2012 but beat Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl in 2013. They have lost subsequent trips to the Quick Lane, to Rutgers in 2014, and the Russell Athletic, to Baylor last year.
While UNC has stumbled down the stretch, losing two of its last three games, the Cardinal enters the bowl game on a five-game winning streak.
Much of the matchup with the Pac-12 power will center on running back Christian McCaffrey, who led the conference in rushing with 1,603 yards.
McCaffrey has his own connection to the Triangle. His older brother, Max, played receiver at Duke from 2012 to ’15.
UNC ranks No. 113 nationally in run defense and has allowed at least 200 yards on the ground in eight of its 12 games.
The Heels should also have an advantage on offense. The Cardinals rank No. 53 in pass defense. Junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky led UNC’s offense this season with 3,468 passing yards with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
UNC has split its previous four Sun Bowl trips, winning in 1972 (Texas Tech) and 1982 (Texas) but losing in 1974 (Mississippi State) and 1994 (Texas).
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
The ACC’s bowl lineup
N.C. State (6-6)
Boston College (6-6)
Wake Forest (6-6)
West Virginia (10-2)
Virginia Tech (9-4)
El Paso, Texas
Florida State (9-3)
Georgia Tech (8-4)
Ohio State (11-1)