The hype has only grown for Mack Brown and North Carolina, and instead of opening its season against UCF and Auburn, it’s a huge favorite against Syracuse.
The Tar Heels are one of the main contenders behind Clemson in the ACC and should get off to a good note against the Orange, as they were -20.5 point home favorites (-21 in spots) with an over/under of 63 a week before the game, as seen at 5Dimes and betonline.
UNC Offense is Stacked
The outlier in this matchup is the UNC offense, which returns the majority of its starters, namely quarterback Sam Howell, who threw 38 touchdowns and seven picks last season.
Behind an experienced line, he should find plenty of time to get top receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome the ball, both of whom had more than 1,000 receiving yards last year.
Throw in the running back duo of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, both averaging more than 5.5 yards per carry, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this offense went for more than 40 points. They closed last season with at least 41 points in each of their final three games, including 55 against Temple in a bowl win.
Cuse Defense Weak
A lot of that is also possible because of a Syracuse defense that fell off last season, allowing more than 30 points and 450 yards per game. They gave up 50-plus points to the likes of Boston College and Louisville, and there’s little reason to bet on them in this matchup, which is why the spread has only jumped in UNC’s favor.
The offense isn’t in a much better situation, but it’s the main reason Syracuse has a chance to cover. Tommy DeVito is back under center after tossing 19 touchdowns and five interceptions, while getting sacked 44 times.
Head coach Dino Babers wants his offense to be a little more high tempo under a new coordinator, but it’s hard to bet on that in the opener. Receiver Taj Smith takes over as the top wide out, while senior Abdul Adams is expected to be the top running back.
While DeVito is back, it’s not like he’s a game changer and the returning talent around him is slim.
UNC Defense Returns Key Talent
It doesn’t help that UNC’s defense is also in a better situation with all three linebackers returning, highlighted by former quarterback Chazz Surratt. This group was inconsistent last year, but it also held Clemson to just 21 points, among other good performances.
With a new set of starters up front, Syracuse would probably be smart to attack with the ground game, but the expected starter, Abdul Adams, averaged just 3.9 ypc last year.
The Tar Heels are better on both sides of the ball and will continue to get most of the money. They are expected to improve even more in the second year of Mack Brown, while Babers hired new coordinators with the hopes of changing up his fate with the Orange.
Winning by 20 points is a lot, but UNC beat NC State and Temple by a combined 96-23 score line in its final two games last season, and a lot of those guys are back.
Yes, the Tar Heels are a team on the rise. They have some nice young talent and a Hall of Fame coach in Mack Brown while Syracuse looks to be in a bit of a rebuilding stage, complete with new coordinators.
Syracuse returns just 9 starters but there are still plenty of players back that saw action last season. That’s worth mentioning because there are some common opponents here that Syracuse played just as tough as NC did.
We’re not so sure we’re ready to lay 3 TD’s out of the gate with the Tar Heels when taking into account those common opponents along with all the uncertainty surrounding this season.
We’ll take Syracuse +21 or better.