Welcome back to my betting column, "Between the Lines," where each week I'll analyze the line for UNC games and tell you which side to trust. Last week, I told you to take Virginia Tech and a mountain of points, even when my every instinct said to avoid the monstrous line. Did we really expect any different? As for this week…
Oct. 28 at 12 p.m.: Miami (-20.5) @ UNC, O/U 54.5
Let's play a little game of déjà vu.
Remember the last time the North Carolina football team entered a game as a three-touchdown underdog? You know, against a top-15 ACC opponent it had embarrassed two years earlier on the same field? One led by a tenacious defense, a dual-threat quarterback and a second-year coach in the midst of a dynasty rebuild?
That game ended with a whole lot of points for one side and a whole lot of sighs for the other. I'll let you guess where the Tar Heels fell.
Of course, this isn't quite the same scenario. Miami (6-0, 4-0 ACC) is ranked a few spots higher than Virginia Tech — No. 8 vs No. 14 — but this game's in Chapel Hill, where the Tar Heels (1-7, 0-5 ACC) are a convincing 0-5 on the year and 0-3 in conference play. Still, UNC's kept it close in four of its five home losses, and a homecoming crowd could help.
Miami boasts the second-longest FBS winning streak in the country (11 games) and the longest among Power Five schools, but the Hurricanes won their past three games by a combined 13 points, including a one-point win over Georgia Tech. Yet those Yellow Jackets trounced UNC in late September, and the Tar Heels have only gotten worse since then.
This week's injury report seems as much like a nail in the coffin as any this year for North Carolina. Michael Carter — UNC's dynamo running back and only reliable offensive weapon — makes his debut on the list, which now extends 21 deep and includes 17 who are out for the season. Neither quarterback shows up on the injury report, though both left at varying points in last Saturday's blowout loss at Virginia Tech with apparent injuries.
Meanwhile, Miami enters the game at full strength, with just one player on its injury report — and even that player, defensive back Dee Delaney, is probable. The Hurricanes haven't lost a game all season, though they also haven't really been tested. That won't come this week, as the Tar Heels have been listless for weeks in all three phases. Unless Chazz Surratt pulls out the game of his life and the defense bands together, can they even keep it close?
UNC needs to force turnovers to maintain a puncher's chance on Saturday, but Miami ranks fifth in the country in turnover margin. North Carolina hasn't shown any resistance on the ground this season, so the Hurricanes' top-50 rushing attack should comfortably bleed the Tar Heels dry after building an early lead — which, given UNC's anemic offense, they're sure to do.
Miami isn't Virginia Tech, for better or worse. Larry Fedora and co. can't seem to keep their most competent players on the field, but the Hurricanes seem to keep every game within striking distance. It's a perfect formula for a Miami win, but the spread is less secure.
Still, picking North Carolina at this point in the season is a lottery wish born from hope. The Tar Heels have shown no real signs of life since their lone win against Old Dominion back in September, when the quarterback competition appeared over and the injury report was a mere footnote and not the entire chapter for this 2017 season. Nothing suggests this week will be any more bearable than last weekend's beatdown in Blacksburg.
(Plus, full disclosure, I'm 8-0 against the spread and I'm not about to go down picking a 1-7 team to keep it close with the eighth-ranked team in the country. Don't fail me now, Fedora.)
PREDICTION: Miami (-20.5), UNDER (54.5)
BTL RECORD: 8-0 ATS, 5-3 O/U
Agree/disagree with my picks? Think following my advice is a bad investment (hint: it is) and want to demand a refund? Let me know @CJacksonCowart or in the comments below!