Between the Lines: UNC football at Old Dominion

photo by Smith Hardy

Football content this weekend is brought to you with support from Argyle Report patron John Darling.

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 Louisville and the over with confidence, sure that Lamar Jackson would run roughshod on the Tar Heel defense. Hey, at least UNC's in some highlight reels now, right? As for this week…

Sept. 16 at 3:30 p.m.: UNC (-10.5) @ Old Dominion, O/U 55

If not now, when?

That's what the North Carolina football team has got to be asking itself after letting two games slip away to remain winless heading into its first road trip. Remember, the Tar Heels (0-2) led entering the fourth quarter against Louisville and Cal before the defense let both of those squads steal one in Kenan Stadium.

So if not now, when? Look at UNC's schedule beyond this weekend. A home tilt against Duke and Maxwell Award candidate Daniel Jones? Condolences to the defense. Against Georgia Tech in Atlanta, where the Tar Heels have historically struggled? Don't hold out hope. When Notre Dame comes to town? Good luck.

It's not that North Carolina can't win those games, per se, but if the Tar Heels can't overcome lowly Old Dominion, they hardly stand a chance against legitimate ACC competition. And what does that say about the state of UNC football?

Don't worry, Tar Heel fans: it won't come to that.

The last time North Carolina was a double-digit favorite, it laid an absolute egg against the Golden Bears to start the season. This is the ugly truth. But it's also true that Old Dominion is nowhere close to the same caliber as Cal, and UNC (in short bursts) looked like an improved team against Louisville, albeit with the same final result.

Yes, the Monarchs hold home-field advantage in this one, something that can't be overlooked in high school, college or the NFL. But if you're a college team playing in what resembles a high-school stadium without any NFL talent on the field? I don't love your chances.

And that's where Old Dominion is at right now, for better or worse. This isn't the same team that let North Carolina drop 80 points in 2013, a polarizing point for both programs. But it's still a team that has never seen a player get drafted to the NFL and is yet to beat a Power Five school since the program was reborn in 2009.

This iteration of the Monarchs has also taken a turn for the worse since the season started. Old Dominion entered the year as the only team in Conference-USA with a preseason all-conference selection at running back (Ray Lawry) and receiver (Jonathan Duhart). But both players are now on the sidelines nursing injuries, as is receiver Melvin Vaughn and starting right tackle Chad Hendricks — four players whom head coach Bobby Wilder says are among the best on the team.

The result? A simple assignment for a Tar Heel defense looking for any kind of break. With quarterbacks Chazz Surratt and Brandon Harris finally showing some sort of rhythm in the offense, the Tar Heels shouldn't be threatened in this one. The defense will still likely let the Monarchs put points on the board, especially if UNC's offense pushes the team to an early advantage. But North Carolina shouldn't have any issue marking its first win this weekend, with ease.

And if not now? We could be waiting a while for the when.

PREDICTION: UNC (-10.5), OVER (55)

BTL RECORD: 2-0 ATS, 1-1 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!