photo by Smith Hardy
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 Cal and the points, much to the chagrin of Tar Heel fans. Sometimes, it hurts to be right. As for this week…
Sept. 9 at 12:00 p.m.: Louisville (-10) @ UNC, O/U 63
When I first saw the line for this week’s game, I nearly drooled.
Could it really be true? Could No. 17 Louisville, led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, only be getting six points against a reeling North Carolina team with two quarterbacks and zero wins? Straight cash, homie.
But people wised up, and the line kept climbing. Now, UNC sits as a 10-point underdog. Should you really bet on the Cardinals as double-digit road favorites?
Of course you should.
Last week, had Larry Fedora not called a timeout with one second left to let Chazz Surratt plow into the end zone, we’d be talking about an 11-point loss as a 12-point favorite at home. That’s a 23-point swing to a team with a new head coach, a new defense and a new quarterback. Welcome to the new era.
The same problems that sank the Tar Heels against the Golden Bears still persist. Fedora won’t name a starting quarterback, even as his constant rotation confounds players and fans alike. UNC’s defense — initially billed as the strength of this team — couldn’t stop beating itself, making Cal quarterback Ross Bowers look like a Heisman Trophy candidate in his first collegiate start.
Remember the guy who actually won the Heisman Trophy last year? He’s coming to Chapel Hill this weekend.
North Carolina’s biggest issue last week defensively was generating enough pressure against Bowers, who stepped into passing lanes at will. Against Jackson — who totaled 485 yards last week — those lanes will turn into 30-yard rushes, and UNC’s front seven hasn’t shown the discipline to contain those types of plays.
If Jackson has his way, we could see flashbacks of Deshaun Watson’s six-touchdown performance against the Tar Heels in 2014. And should the Cardinals build an early lead, the Tar Heels will be hard-pressed to mount a comeback given their tumult at quarterback.
Still feeling good about UNC? I’ll keep going.
The last time Bobby Petrino came to Kenan Stadium was in 2004, when he led a 34-0 win during his first stint as the Cardinals’ coach. The last time UNC faced a dual-threat quarterback anywhere close to Jackson was at Florida State in 2016, when Deondre Francois totaled 404 yards. And you can forget the Nick Weiler chopping daydreams — this Tar Heel team is nowhere close to that one.
Louisville hasn’t covered the spread in its past five games, albeit against pretty gaudy numbers, but a 10-point mark over UNC should be no trouble for the Cardinals this week. And with question marks surrounding both defenses, this game should push the over, which has happened in four of Louisville’s past five contests. (Note: If this game goes under, it means North Carolina has somehow kept it close. Bet accordingly.)
Don't overthink this one. Do the Tar Heels historically struggle against rushing quarterbacks? Check. Is Lamar Jackson quite possibly the most prolific rushing quarterback this sport has ever seen? Check. Has Larry Fedora still refused to commit to either of his own rushing quarterbacks? Check.
Take the Cardinals with confidence.
PREDICTION: Louisville (-10), OVER (63)
BTL RECORD: 1-0 ATS, 0-1 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!