North Carolina Tar Heels Odds to win ACC with Expert Betting Predictions
Butch Davis recruited like crazy and didn't have much to show for it. His Tar Heels never broke through. Now Larry Fedora enters his sixth year at UNC, and he had his breakthrough two years ago - the Tar Heels rolled to 11-3 after going unbeaten in conference play and wound up ranked 15th in the final poll of the season. That's about as high as it gets for a program like North Carolina. They couldn't really sustain it last year, but it wasn't a disaster, either. And now we get to see what Fedora is really made of.
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He faces significant changes, but there is a real opportunity - the schedule is fairly soft, and the division is fairly open. If everything went North Carolina's way then they could win nine or 10 games and a division title. Or they could fail to make a bowl game. It's one of those wide-open, fairly unpredictable seasons in Chapel Hill.
2016 in a Nutshell
Things got off to a rough start out of the gate, as UNC opened up by losing against Georgia in Atlanta in a game that was a chance to make a big statement. They bounced back strong, though, winning four in a row. Three didn't matter too much, but a two-point win at Florida State was a real eye opener. Unfortunately, they couldn't carry the momentum forward at all as they lost their next time out by 31 at home to Virginia Tech. They didn't feel too sorry for themselves for too long, though, as they came back to win at Miami next time out, then they won at Virginia and against Georgia Tech for good measure. They rose to a season-high ranking of 15 but threw that away by losing at Duke. They beat The Citadel next but then lost to NC State to close out the season and then to Stanford in the bowl game. Not a great finish.
What stands out, though, is how much this team tended towards close games. They had wins by one and two points and losses by the same margins. This season could have been much better or much worse with just a hair or two in either direction.
Key Additions and Departures
Settle in - it could take a while to describe all the changes. Mitch Trubisky is gone to the Bears, so the team needs a new QB. As I write a clear choice hasn't emerged. Brandon Harris joined as a grad transfer from LSU. He has plenty of starting experience. His issue is that he isn't good - or at least he wasn't particularly good at the helm of the often-inept LSU passing attack. Redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt is the youngster with the big upside in the race, and sophomore Nathan Elliott is in the race, too. It seems like a good bet that we'll see more than one guy play some time because if they haven't figured things out yet then there is obviously uncertainty.
QB is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of changes. They lost two running backs - most notably Elijah Hood, who was really good. Three top receivers and four starting linemen are gone as well. They have some options at receiver, but how the youngsters will turn out relies in part on who takes charge at QB. The line isn't as scary as it sounds. They have three guys who have started some games, they added a couple of solid grad transfers, and they have some youngsters ready to step up. They should be fine on the line. The same can't confidently be said at running back, though. They have no one proven, and little experience. They'll need a bit of a miracle to be a good running team, but then they were only barely in the Top 100 last year with Hood, so it's not like this is a big strength anyway.
The most notable change on defense is that coordinator Gene Chizik left coaching in the spring to spend more time with his family. He's a big loss as this defense had taken huge steps forward from the depths of awfulness to quiet competence in his two years. John Papuchis takes over. He's a Bo Pelini guy, but don't hold that against him. Luckily, he doesn't have to deal with much change up front. The front seven were ridiculously young last year and will not only be largely intact this season but also next year as well. They have to replace a key corner and a key safety. So there is going to be some inexperienced play there.
North Carolina Tar Heels Schedule Analysis
Any time a team in the ACC doesn't have to play Florida State or Clemson they have nothing to complain about. They should beat Cal in their opener, but they will likely lose to Louisville in Week 2. Old Dominion and Duke should let them climb to 3-1 if they can get the new players clicking. Then comes a coin flip at Georgia Tech and then a tough game to call because we don't really know what Notre Dame is going to be after their mess of a season last year. Then they should split the state of Virginia - beating Virginia at home but losing at the Hokies. Miami then at Pitt will be tough games, but Western Carolina is a gimme before a trip down the road to NC State to finish things off.
It's hard to predict what happens because of how little we know about what this team will actually be like. It's pretty easy to see six wins, though, and you can see as many as nine without having to squint too hard.
2017-18 North Carolina Tar Heels Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline does not list North Carolina among the 36 teams with national title futures odds attached. That's just fine - it's hard to imagine any price that would make this squad worth a gamble. They are at +3600 to win the ACC, which ranks them eighth. They are the fourth choice to win the ACC Coastal at +1100 - not a horrible price, but not the biggest bargain on the board, either. The season win total is at 7, with the "under" heavily favored at -165. I don't hate the over.
The team was a solid 8-5 ATS last season, and they didn't stay down for long at any point - they followed every ATS loss with a cover next time out. They went under the total in nine of 13 and were particularly potent in their last nine, when they went under eight times.
2017-18 North Carolina Tar Heels Predictions and College Football Picks
I want to like this team, and I want to put them in the ACC Coastal mix. I think they could be decent, but with the questions surrounding them we have to view them as incomplete. The lines should be solid, and that will help so I remaining cautiously optimistic but not hugely excited about the team.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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