NC State and UNC will take the field on Friday in Chapel Hill, NC. The Wolfpack, 7-4 straight-up and 3-8 against the spread, lost 25-10 at Louisville last week. The Tar Heels, 9-2 SU and 6-5 ATS, were upset 21-17 by Georgia Tech. The game total is 55.5 points, and UNC is a 6.5-point spread favorite.
The Wolfpack just want a win to cap an up-and-down seasonNC State has lost twice since beating 21st-ranked Wake Forest, another example of the rollercoaster season Wolfpack fans have endured in 2022. NC State trailed 13-3 at the half and never recovered, scoring just one touchdown against Louisville. The ground game couldn't get going against the Cardinals, gaining just 77 yards on 31 attempts (2.5 yards per carry). The Wolfpack possessed the football for one minute longer than Louisville but gave up a 98-yard kickoff return that allowed the Cardinals to generate momentum. It was a deafening defeat for NC State, which couldn't compete with Louisville, even with Cardinals senior QB Malik Cunningham (119 career TDs) sidelined with a right shoulder injury.
This season has represented a major fall from grace for the Wolfpack, who were ranked as high as tenth in the country. NC State started 4-0 but lost key games to ranked Clemson and Syracuse squads, as well as a home game to a bad Boston College team. Without starting QB Devin Leary, the offense has stalled out, averaging 18.2 points per game since he exited the Florida State game with a torn right pectoral muscle. NC State was 4-1 and averaging 32.4 points per contest with Leary under center. The Wolfpack have tried out three other quarterbacks following Leary's injury, with MJ Morris leading the team to victories over Virginia Tech and a ranked Demon Deacons team. Unfortunately, the frosh missed the Louisville game with a lower-body injury that may keep him out against UNC, too.
1️⃣6️⃣ picks 🦴 pic.twitter.com/iqwv0Dqg8X— NC State Football (@PackFootball) November 17, 2022
Without Morris, the Wolfpack will look to senior Jack Chambers and freshman Ben Finley to handle snaps, with Chambers serving as a change-of-pace mobile option to the pro-style Finley. To beat the rival Tar Heels, North Carolina State must rely on its stout defense, which is top 25 in total yards surrendered and top ten against the run. Its 19 takeaways rank among the most in the nation, too.
UNC is enjoying its best season since 2015North Carolina has already clinched the ACC's Coastal Division but lost its momentum last week in a home upset to Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels led 17-0 late in the first half but never scored again, as the Yellow Jackets stormed back with 21 unanswered points. North Carolina had a shot to come back late in the fourth, but receiver Josh Downs dropped a fourth-down pass in the end zone. Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, a Heisman hopeful, failed to record a touchdown pass for the first time this year and was held to a season-low 202 passing yards. It was the type of late-season loss that can define a year if UNC can't get back on its feet this week versus rival NC State with Clemson looming in the ACC championship game.
The Tar Heels face a very good NC State defense, especially against the run, this week. Maye, who leads the team in passing and rushing, will need to muster a bounce-back performance to get this UNC squad back on track. The loss to Georgia Tech almost certainly puts the Tar Heels out of the national championship race, even with a win over the Tigers for the conference title. Still, a lackluster showing vs. State could jeopardize what has already been a great football season for the Tar Heels program.
The UNC offense has been legit nearly all year, averaging 38.0 points per game, the 13th-most in the country. The Heels are also sixth in passing yards per game and eighth in total yards per game., while the run game has been mediocre (57th nationally). The defense has not been dominant, to say the least. UNC is ranked 99th or worse in points surrendered, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and total yards allowed per game.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Tar Heels have to take the Wolfpack seriously, but they mostly can't let them hang around for too long. NC State will likely be without QB MJ Morris, who was impressive this year in relief of starter Devin Leary. Without him, I'm not sure how well the Wolfpack offense will fare, even against a mediocre UNC defense. The NC State defense could hold its own for the majority of the game, but at some point, the Tar Heels' explosive offense is going to break through. I like Drake Maye's upside as a pro prospect and believe he will respond with a great showing against the Wolfpack after a bad game against Georgia Tech.
At the end of the day, NC State can't be trusted in this spot. It's 0-4 ATS in its last four road games versus a team with a winning home record and 1-7 ATS in its last eight conference games. The Tar Heels may have stumbled against the Yellow Jackets, but they won't be stung in consecutive weeks with an opportunity to make a statement versus Clemson in the ACC title game.
Bet UNC at -6.5 points.
Full-Game Total Pick
I don't envision the Wolfpack possessing the ball long enough to push the total over in Chapel Hill this Friday. There's plenty of talent on the NC State defense, meanwhile, and the Tar Heels may be more interested in resting its starters late in the game than attempting to run up the score on their rival. UNC's run game has been nonexistent, with injuries contributing to a lack of depth. Maye should not be leading the team in rushing yards.
The under is 4-0 in NC State's last four against a team with a winning record and 5-1 in UNC's last six games in November. I'll take the under at 55.5 points.