College Football Pick
North Carolina has had a large edge in this matchup the last couple years and that’s mainly because of its high-flying offense. While the offense isn’t as good this season, the Tar Heels are still fighting for the ACC Coastal title, with Duke just fighting to not finish last in the division.
When these teams met a year ago, it was all UNC offense, as they dropped 66 points on the Blue Devils. Duke ran for 327 yards and a few touchdowns of its own, but was never going to keep up without much of a passing Game. It finished 66-31, but the Heels are averaging just 32.5 points per Game this season.
Part of that has to do with a lesser running Game as seen in Elijah Hood’s numbers. He went for almost 1,500 yards and 17 TDs a year ago, but he’s far below that pace and averaging just five yards per carry, about two less than 2015. T.J. Logan has had a bigger role, but nothing that’s going to push this team past 50 points.
Everything the Heels do is based on the passing Game and Mitch Trubisky. He’s completing more than 70% of his passes and hasn’t really had an issue with interceptions, outside of the one Game that was played during a hurricane. Trubisky reached 400-plus yards in a three-Game stretch earlier in the season, but more importantly was able to lead the team in back-to-back road wins at Miami and Virginia last month. As long as the good Trubisky shows up, Duke will have issues.
That said, the Blue Devils aren’t terrible on defense. They’ve held most teams in check, but obviously, that hasn’t been enough. They stopped Louisville to 24 points on the road, but also let Georgia Tech run all over them and lost at home to Virginia 34-20.
since we know UNC will score, it’ll be up to what freshman quarterback Daniel Jones can do. He’s been off-and-on this season and without a great running Game, that’s not enough. He’s had good Games against lesser defenses, throwing for 300 yards multiple times, but he also had a five-interception Game against Virginia. It’s not like the Heels are great defensively, but they did pick it up the last two Games, stopping Miami’s Brad Kaaya in one of them.
To make things worse, Duke lost Jela Duncan a couple weeks ago for the season. The top role now belongs to Shaun Wilson, who’s averaging about Four yards per carry. Joseph Ajeigbe will probably be used a bit more, but he’s likely a step below Duncan.
The Blue Devils kept up in this Game (somewhat) last year via a dominant running Game and if that doesn’t happen in this one, it may be another ugly contest. The one thing Duke will have to bank on is its home crowd in a primetime Game on national TV. But that can only go so far against a superior team led by a quarterback that doesn’t make mistakes.
The case for Duke – To make a case for Duke, we’d point to the fact that most of their losses, all but one, were by 11 points or less including a 10 point loss to Louisville and 3 point losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. We’re getting +11.5 here at home in a prime-time Game. Furthermore, Our model has this as a 10 point spot.
The case for North Carolina – easy enough. The #15 team in the nation, 7-2 on the year and a team that can put points on the board with ease.
Our Pick – We seldom if ever would wager on an underdog that we didn’t think could win a Game straight up. In other words, we don’t wager on teams to “hang within a number”. In all likelihood, the superior team in this one, the Tarheels, extend this margin late in the Game.
But note that Duke actually has a respectable defense. Using yards per point to rank, Duke’s defense ranks 30th in the nation with a yards per point number of 16.4. Where Duke runs into trouble is on offense, where their ypp number of 16.5 ranks 113th in the nation. A low scoring defensive battle would seem to be their only chance here and that doesn’t seem likely.
If you like Duke, pray for rain! North Carolina -11