North Carolina +5.5 over Rutgers (shop for +6) All we have learned thus far from these two squads opening Games is that neither of them is very good at this point. Rutgers is certainly not the same team that strung together a couple of magical years and was even mentioned as a National Title contender just a few short years ago. North Carolina on the other hand just got by McNeese State two weeks ago giving up almost 400 yards of total offense and 27 points in a 35-27 win. They also lost the first down battle 22-13. On the plus side for the Tar Heels would have to be their 5.6 yards per rush. That may serve them well against a Rutgers team that GAve up 5.3 yards per rush to Fresno in their first Game.
But the Tar Heels figure to be a team on the rise, much in the same way Rutgers was a few years ago. Butch Davis begins his 2nd year at the helm and while he only improved the Tar Heels by one Game in the win column last year, to 4-8, there were some positives. They were competitive every time they took the field last year with the exception of Wake Forest and South Florida. They had a 2 point loss to Virginia, a 7 point loss to Virginia Tech, a 6 point loss to South Carolina and a 2 point loss to Georgia Tech.
You might say, big deal, they lost a buNCh of Games by a couple of points. That proves nothing. They still lost 8 Games. But losing close, after losing badly for so long, is a classic example of a team on the rise. As a perfect example of this, one only need to look at Illinois. In 2006 they only won 2 Games but they had some very close losses against some good football teams. The following year, they turned those close losses into wins and wound up in the Rose Bowl.
Taking into consideration that North Carolina returns 10 on offense and 7 on defense to a team that had so many close losses a year ago, and now has another year under their belts with Butch Davis and his schemes, we’d have to assume that we have a very live dog here in the Tar Heels. Add to the mix that Rutgers appears to be down a notch, clearly missing Ray Rice and not playing up to par defensively and we have a play on the Tar Heels worth considering. Tarheels +5.5