|Wake Forest Odds||+13.5 [BET NOW]|
|North Carolina Odds||-13.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+425 / -588 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||69.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||12 p.m. ET|
North Carolina has been a victim of its own hype. The Tar Heels and Heisman hopeful Sam Howell rose all the way to No. 5 in the Week 7 AP Top poll before crash-landing back to earth with road losses at Florida State and Virginia.
Those defeats confirmed Mack Brown’s young team isn’t quite ready for the national stage just yet.
Despite their struggles this past month, namely allowing 30 points per game, the Tar Heels have been installed as nearly two-touchdown favorites against one of the nation’s best teams against the spread. Wake Forest, who is a stellar 5-1 ATS, is covering by an average margin of 10.8 points per contest. By contrast, UNC is covering the number by less than a point (0.8) this season.
As of publication, 58% of all tickets and 64% of the handle for this game are favoring the Tar Heels, which means we could see this spread bubble up to 14 between now and kickoff. My projections call for this to be UNC -9.5, so any double-digit number is favoring Wake Forest in a big way.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Quarterback Sam Hartman is doing a great job running Wake’s “Clawfense.” Head coach Dave Clawson’s unique spread offense skews toward the running game, with prolonged quarterback reads at the mesh point.
This season, Wake Forest is averaging 37 points per game (25th) and has punched in 18 scores on the ground (12th). Running backs Kenneth Walker III and Christian Beal-Smith have combined for 1,000 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.
As for Hartman, the third-year sophomore has played error-free football during Wake Forest’s four-game winning streak. His 63.4 completion percentage during that stretch pairs perfectly with the Demon Deacons’ turnover-averse strategy. No team that has played more than two games has fewer giveaways (one) than Wake Forest.
As you can probably guess, when you don’t give the ball away, your average turnover margin must be pretty stellar. Wake Forest’s +2.33 turnover margin per game is second best in the nation.
A big piece of the defensive puzzle is Carlos Basham Jr. The junior terror-off-the-edge started the season on a five-game sack streak, validating the love the media and Pro Football Focus (second-rated NFL Draft edge rusher) heaped upon him in the preseason. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to impact this game, facing a UNC offensive line that is allowing 2.86 sacks per game (94th) this season.
One final note in favor of Wake Forest is the special-teams discrepancy. The Demon Deacons have been solid overall in this department (SP+ 42nd) and have a Lou Groza-caliber kicker in Nick Sciba. North Carolina’s special teams, meanwhile, check in at 110th in SP+, mainly due to Grayson Atkins’ struggles (6 of 11 field goals) on the field.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The North Carolina offense has played poorly in just two halves this season, first against Syracuse and then against Florida State. Other than that, Howell and this offense have been as good as advertised.
The Tar Heels are top 10 in yards per play, yards per pass, total offense and explosive plays from scrimmage. Where they’ve struggled has been in the red zone (85.19%, 59th) and in the giveaway department (68th). If they were to clean up either element of their game, or both, they’d be in the running with Alabama for the nation’s best offense.
Defensively, Jay Bateman’s unit has been a bit of a disappointment. And now without star cornerback Storm Duck, it’s fair to wonder whether or not UNC can hold Wake Forest under 30 points.
The wheels really started falling off this defense when it hosted Virginia Tech. The 56-45 Tar Heel victory saw its defense surrender 495 total yards to the Hokies. As a unit, it has settled into a spot of 58th nationally in terms of defensive Havoc, which is surprising given the fact it has an excellent pass rush (3.29 sack per game, 18th).
Betting Analysis & Pick
I love an underdog that takes care of the football, because that generally translates to predictable play. Wake Forest won’t beat itself in this game, and while UNC is nearly a lock to score 35+ in this one, I think Wake will strike offensive balance attacking a defensive backfield without its best cornerback.
I would play this down to +12, but anticipate the line to shift to +14 at some point between now and kickoff.
Pick: Wake Forest +13.5