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North Carolina Futures Wager
by Scott Spreitzer - 08/11/2008
Last week I focused on a team (Air Force) that I felt was a bit overrated by the linesmakers heading into the 2008 college football season. I suggested a play on the Falcons to finish with less than seven total wins. This week, while many radio shows are jumping on the Texas Tech bandwagon, I feel the strongest "Over" play on the board is a play on the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The Heels finished last season with a 4-8 SU mark. The Over/Under wins prop this season is 6 1/2 wins. Obviously, to cash the Over ticket, UNC must finish with seven wins. While that total may seem high at first glance, consider the following:
The Tar Heels were 4-8 last season, but they were just a handful of plays from a bowl berth. North Carolina lost by three points (5-point pup) at East Carolina on a made FG as time expired. They lost 22-20 to Virginia, failing to make a two-point conversion in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. UNC dropped a 17-10 decision as a 19 1/2 point underdog to Virginia Tech, despite out-gaining the Hokies, 306-241, with 18 FDs to Va Tech's 11. The Heels owned a 221-112 halftime yardage advantage over South Carolina, but went on to lose, 21-15. North Carolina led NC State by three points with less than six minutes to go before an interception set-up the Wolfpack in a short-field situation. The Pack scored the go-ahead TD. UNC still had a shot, but they were stopped on downs at the NC State 7-yard line with less than 10-seconds to go, and lost 31-27. And, they lost by just two points at Georgia Tech (27-25) as a 9 1/2 point underdog.
That's a six-game swing. North Carolina, in their first season under the direction of Butch Davis, came "that close" to a 10-2 season! As you can now see, the three-game improvement needed to cash this season's proposition is not nearly as tough as it may have seemed.
Head Coach Butch Davis heads into his second season at the helm and he has 18 returning starters to work with. Quarterback T.J. Yates will be in his second season in this system. He did miss spring ball, but is expected to jump right into the meat of things when the regular season gets underway. Greg Little thrived at the RB spot after making the move from wide receiver. I absolutely love the potential of the offensive line. Nine of their top 10 linemen return for Davis, and I expect bigger results even with the loss of center Scott Lenahan.
Each unit on the defensive side of the football has the talent to be better than last year's. I'm including the defensive line when I make that statement. Some will cite the loss of linemen Kentwan Balmer and Garrett White. But it must be noted that FIVE players with starting experience are back on the defensive front. The linebacking corps is deep and has plenty of starting experience returning to the field. And, I'm really expecting huge numbers to be put up by a loaded and talented secondary.
North Carolina plays seven home games this season. I expect home wins over McNeese State, UConn, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, and NC State. Add to that mix, likely home wins over a Boston College team that should slip back to the pack, losing 22 letterman with just 10 starters returning to the roster, and a road win over a Virginia team that I have pegged for last in the Coastal, and that gives us seven wins right there. I would not be surprised at all if UNC gets by Va Tech at home on 9/20. And, a road win over Miami is truly possible, especially when you consider that Miami has just 11 returning starters and their top three signal callers have not thrown a pass at the collegiate level! Finally, while Duke may be a bit improved in HC David Cutcliffe's first season in Durham, I don't expect them to shock a talented squad like North Carolina...the Tar Heels regular season finale.
As far as I'm concerned, a nine win season is not out of the question for Butch Davis' Tar Heels. My second suggested proposition of the 2008 CFB season is to play North Carolina to go Over 6 1/2 wins. Until next week, good betting!