I would like to give you some great reason why this Thursday’s ACC stinker between North Carolina and Virginia has some national relevance, but I really can’t. However, it’s the lone college football game of the night, might be a better matchup than the Thursday NFL game between the Dolphins and Bills, and you can bet on it. So here’s your preview!
North Carolina (6-4, 3-3) actually might be the best team in the ACC’s Coastal Division, but it is ineligible for postseason play this year for infractions committed on former coach Butch Davis’ watch – by the way, look or Davis to land a head-coaching gig this offseason (Arkansas?). So this will be the final road game of the season for UNC. The Heels still could have some impact on who wins the Coastal in terms of tiebreakers, which will be Miami, Duke or Georgia Tech. The Canes will win it with a victory next week at Duke (they play nonconference South Florida on Saturday). Duke and Georgia Tech play Saturday. All the Blue Devils need to do is win out to get to Charlotte. The Jackets would need to beat Duke and then have the Blue Devils beat Miami. Got all that?
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Virginia (4-6, 2-4) must beat UNC and then win at Virginia Tech to reach a second straight bowl game for the first time since 2004-05. The Hokies also would be playing for bowl eligibility in the game if they win this week at Boston College.
North Carolina at Virginia Betting Storylines
UNC was beaten 68-50 at home last week by Georgia Tech in the highest-scoring game in ACC history. The teams combined for 1,085 yard and just five punts, with 11 players scoring touchdowns. The Tar Heels gave up the second-most points in school history and scored the most points they ever have in a loss. Carolina scored at least 50 points for the third time this season, a first since 1970. QB Bryn Renner completed 24-of-35 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns. He has passed for a school-record 708 yards in consecutive games.
It’s hard to say there was one significant play in a game like that, but UNC had fourth-and-10 at its own 25 and down 44-36 in the third quarter. Punter Tommy Hibbard caught the snap and decided to take off on a fake. It was stuffed easily, and one play later Tech scored. That about finished things. Coach Larry Fedora didn’t call the fake but had given Hibbard the authority to make the call himself. Here’s guessing that authority has since been retracted.
The Heels have one of the nation’s top running backs in Gio Bernard, and he may be playing his penultimate NCAA game because he would be eligible for the NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore. Bernard is the first Heel with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Natrone Means in 1991 and 1992. Bernard has 17 total touchdowns this season, 11 rushing, four receiving and two by punt returns, and he missed two games (both UNC losses). He is second in the nation in scoring, third in all-purpose yards. Bernard needs four touchdowns in the next two games to tie Don McCauley's single-season record; McCauley also holds the school single-season record for points with 126.
Virginia stunned Miami 41-40 last week, rallying from a 10-point deficit, capped with a 10-yard Michael Rocco touchdown pass with six seconds left. Rocco finished 29-of-37 for 300 yards with four scores and completed a school-record 18 straight passes at one point. Rocco either passed or ran for all 87 yards during the Cavs’ game-winning drive. It was Rocco’s first start since Sept. 29, although he had played in every game but one since then. Coach Mike London has been using a rotation with Phillip Sims, who was 11-for-14 for 88 yards vs. Miami.
UVa-UNC is now tied for the nation’s fourth-longest rivalry as this will be the 117th meeting. Minnesota-Wisconsin is tops at 122. Nos. 2 & 3 are no longer intact: Kansas-Missouri and Texas-Texas A&M because of the Tigers’ and Aggies’ move to the SEC.
Carolina is 5-4 in nine previous Thursday night ESPN games, including a 24-21 loss last year at Virginia Tech. UNC has won two straight in this series, each by double-digits. The 2010 win in Charlottesville ended a 14-game losing streak there for the Heels. This will be the first Thursday night game at Virginia in six years. UVA is 6-5 all-time on Thursday nights and has won two straight.
North Carolina at Virginia Betting Odds and Trends
On BookMaker, UNC is a three-point favorite with the total at 61. Carolina is 5-5 ATS and 6-3 “over/under”. Virginia is 1-8-1 ATS and 5-4 O/U.
The Tar Heels are 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a loss. They haven’t covered in their past five road games. Virginia has covered just once overall in its past 12 games. UVA is 0-6-1 ATS in its last seven home games. The under is 5-1-1 in the last seven meetings. The Tar Heels are 3-11 ATS in their last 14 meetings.
College Football Picks: North Carolina at Virginia Predictions
Bernard slightly tweaked his ankle vs. Georgia Tech but will absolutely play. If the Cavs couldn’t stop Miami, I don’t see how they slow a unit that is one of nine in the nation averaging more than 250 yards passing (287.7) and 200 yards rushing (201.0). But then again, these quick turnarounds vastly favor the home team. Still, I like the Heels to cover and the under.
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