CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Cincinnati Bearcats will look to defend their Belk Bowl title Dec. 28 against North Carolina.

The Bearcats will be making their second straight appearance in the game after defeating Duke 48-34 last year in Charlotte, Belk Bowl officials announced Sunday night.

"We are very excited to have North Carolina playing in the 2013 Belk Bowl," said Belk Bowl executive director Will Webb said in a release. "The Tar Heels finished the season very strong, as did Cincinnati, and it should provide a great matchup on the field."

Cincinnati finished 9-3 overall and in second place in the American Athletic Conference at 6-2. They finished strong by winning six of their final seven games.

Bearcats head coach Tommy Tuberville said in a release "the opportunity to play another game is huge for our team, our fans and for recruiting. It's exciting and a tribute to our great fans that the Belk Bowl has selected Cincinnati two years in a row."

The Bearcats defeated Duke last year in the Belk Bowl behind the play of quarterback Brendon Kay, who named the game's MVP.

The Tar Heels (6-6) bounced back from a 1-5 start this season to win five of their last six games to become bowl eligible. However, their regular season ended with a disappointing 27-25 loss to rival Duke at home.

The in-state bowl game has not been particularly kind to the Tar Heels. They've lost all three of their previous appearances in the game — in 2009 to Pittsburgh, in 2008 to West Virginia and in 2004 to Boston College.

Those three losses were by a combined six points.

"I'm excited for our team, especially our seniors, who fought through some early season adversity and won five of the last six games to become bowl eligible," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said in a release. "This is a resilient bunch of guys that kept believing in one another throughout the year and I'm glad they were rewarded with a bowl game. We're looking forward to facing a very good Cincinnati team led by an outstanding coach in Tommy Tuberville."

Beginning next season the Belk Bowl will feature a team from the Southeastern Conference against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.