North Carolina Tar Heels Odds to Win the 2015 College Football National Championship
by Alan Matthews - 8/27/2014
The University of North Carolina is obviously known as a basketball school, and that program has always overshadowed the football side. Really the only coach in the past 25 years who came close to getting football on a near-equal footing with hoops was Mack Brown, and he left for Texas in 1997 just when the Heels were starting to look like a national power.
UNC won 11 games that '97 season and hasn't come closer than two wins of double-digit wins since, but a lot of people are high on the Heels this season. Can they beat Florida State in the ACC Championship Game? Probably not, but UNC can get there, and should the Heels have just one loss entering the game and play the Noles close, then perhaps North Carolina can play in a major bowl game for the first time in forever.
Why so much optimism off a 7-6 season in 2013? Carolina started 1-5, and second-year coach Larry Fedora looked in trouble. However, then North Carolina lost just once more: a last-minute 27-25 defeat to Duke in the regular-season finale that gave the Blue Devils the ACC Coastal Division. The Heels then blew out Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.
North Carolina Tar Heels Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Story Lines
By far the biggest story line is which quarterback will start Saturday against Liberty. I'd be stunned if it isn't returning starter and junior Marquise Williams over redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky, but Fedora has had those guys competing and sharing first-team reps all through fall camp. Williams started six games last year, including the final five. He threw for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns while running for a team-best 536 yards and six scores. I think Fedora is simply getting Trubisky reps and confidence in case Williams gets hurt as last year's starter, Bryn Renner, did.
Eight offensive starters are due back, including presumed No. 1 running back T.J. Logan (533 yards, four TDs) and No. 1 wide receiver Quinshad Davis (48 catches, 730 yards, 10 TDs). Logan won't be a true featured back as the Heels have three other tailbacks they like, including five-star recruit Elijah Hood, who likely will also get carries. The clear loss on this side of the ball was the nation's top tight end, All-American Eric Ebron. He was a first-round pick of the Lions. The offensive line lost probably its two best guys in center Russell Bodine and left tackle James Hurst. That unit is a bit of a worry.
Six starters are due back on defense, which finished 10th in the ACC in total defense in 2013 and last against the rush (182 yards per game). It did get better as the season went on. The big losses were defensive end Kareem Martin (21.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks) and defensive backs Jabari Price (80 tackles, nine pass breakups) and Tre Boston (94 tackles, five INTs). Two defensive tackles expected to play key roles, Shawn Underwood and Greg Webb, were ruled ineligible for 2014. UNC runs a 4-2-5 defense, and both starting linebackers are back: Travis Hughes (76 tackles, 5.5 for loss) and Jeff Schoettmer (85 tackles, 5.5 for loss). But the star of this group should be hybrid linebacker/end Norkeithus Otis (13 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks).
North Carolina won't have any trouble with its first two nonconference games, at home against Liberty (no line) and San Diego State (+22). It's a good thing UNC then has a bye week, because it visits East Carolina on Sept. 20, and that's potentially a major trap game ahead of opening ACC play at Clemson the following week. The Pirates are a good team that can score like anyone. They were No. 9 in scoring and 12th in passing nationally a year ago, and record-setting QB Shane Carden is back. There's no line on that yet, but if it's double-digits I'd jump on ECU to cover. It starts a really tough four-game stretch for the Heels.
That Clemson game on Sept. 27 will certainly tell us a lot about whether the Heels will be a major factor in the Coastal Division. The only problem is that while Miami also plays Florida State, Virginia Tech doesn't play either FSU or Clemson. So the Hokies maybe should be favored in the division. Carolina is an opening six-point dog for its trip to Death Valley. Unfortunately for UNC, then it has to play the Hokies (+7) the next week, although it's in Chapel Hill. Tech beat visiting UNC 27-17 last year. If the Heels have much left in the tank, then they go to Notre Dame (-3.5).
Get through that four-game run with just one loss and the Heels are in business. The rest of the schedule: vs. Georgia Tech (NL), at Virginia (Cavs are +13.5), at Miami (-2), vs. Pittsburgh (+9), at Duke (+4.5) and home to NC State (+17).
North Carolina Tar Heels 2015 National Championship Odds and Trends
Odds courtesy of 5Dimes . UNC is +12500 to win the national championship, +1800 to win the ACC title game and +300 to win the Coastal Division (co-second favorite to Virginia Tech). The field against UNC in the Coastal is -390. The Tar Heels don't have odds to make the College Football Playoff. Their "over/under" wins totals are 8.5 (under -165 favorite), 8 (over -125 favorite), 7.5 (over -200 favorite), 7 (over -490 favorite) and 6.5 (over -650 favorite). Williams is +20000 to win the Heisman. UNC was 8-5 against the spread in 2013 (6-2 at home) and 4-9 O/U (3-5 at home).
North Carolina Tar Heels Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Predictions
I'm higher on the Heels than most, but now looking at that schedule it's not super friendly, and I could see losses at Clemson, the Irish, Hurricanes and Blue Devils. I believe the Heels can run the table at home. Let's say 9-3 (beating Duke, which has suffered some key season-ending losses of late) and tied for first in the ACC Coastal with Miami, with the Hurricanes winning the tiebreaker. Fedora does have this program headed in the right direction.
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