What better way to end the regular season than with a showdown between the rival North Carolina Tar Heels and NC State Wolfpack? The No. 20-ranked Wolfpack covered with ease in their recent 41-17 blowout win over Syracuse. It was a huge bounce-back performance after the road heartbreaker they had in the previous week against Wake Forest. North Carolina came out victorious in their last outing, but they couldn’t quite cover the massive 36.5-point spread set for them as favorites over Wofford.
Will Howell play on Friday?North Carolina got the best news possible on Wednesday with Sam Howell being upgraded as probable to play in Friday’s game. The NFL draft prospect missed last week’s 34-14 win over Wofford, but his team certainly needs him this week if they have a prayer of pulling off an upset at Carter-Finley Stadium.
NC State’s defense is crashing down on the running game, and their secondary has the most takeaways through the air in the entire Atlantic Coast Conference.
Even a typically cool and collected Howell is going to have his work cut out for him. Can he overcome the busted up offensive line that isn’t doing a great job blocking up front? Can he still find a way to keep the chains moving if the ground game runs into a brick wall?
Ty Chandler hasn’t run for over 100 yards in back-to-back weeks, and he’ll be running against an NC State defense that’s allowing an average 3.4 yards per carry. It’s going to take a herculean effort from both North Carolina and their offensive front to win in the trenches in this game.
And they’ll have to win to make up for all of the defensive struggles for the team.
North Carolina is allowing an average of 31.4 points per game. They’ve been bad against the passing attack and even worse against the run. This game can get away from them quickly if they’re not careful.
Leary can outgun HowellWhy is no one talking about Devin Leary?
I mean, I get Sam Howell is going to the NFL and everything, but Leary is more than capable of outgunning the junior in Friday’s matchup. The NC State quarterback has thrown for 3,186 yards, 31 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
North Carolina’s defense couldn’t stop a runny nose with the secondary allowing an average of 236.8 passing yards per game. They have already given up a total of 21 passing touchdowns this season. As long as Leary is patient, there will be openings for him to rip the Tar Heels downfield.
Speaking of ripping, Howell has also taken up the job of crash test dummy along with quarterback. That North Carolina offensive line is allowing nearly four sacks per game. It’s a scary situation for a quarterback with actual draft stock to be in.
There should be plenty of opportunities for NC State linebackers Drake Thomas and Vi Jones to feast on sacks and tackles for a loss. If they can get after Howell and disrupt the passing attack, it’ll be game over for the Tar Heels.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
NC State quarterback Devin Leary is going to carve up North Carolina’s defense with the precision of Gregory House on an operating table. It’s hard to trust a unit that’s allowing 30-plus points with an average of 411.9 total yards per game. Bad things just seem to happen to that group on a weekly basis.
I’m not saying NC State’s offense is perfect, but they aren’t Wofford, either. North Carolina is going to run into some problems in this matchup.
Unlike the Tar Heels, the Wolfpack’s offensive front actually does a tremendous job of protecting their quarterback. So Leary will have time to sit in the pocket and make the right decisions on where to go with the ball.
On the defensive side of things, it won’t take NC State long to see Sam Howell is standing on an island.
The offensive line for the Tar Heels is letting everyone through, and NC State is going to get in the backfield and disrupt Howell for key plays. And don’t expect Ty Chandler to wear the Superman cape in this one. North Carolina’s running back has been relatively quiet on the ground in the last two games, and Friday’s game won’t be any different. North Carolina will be rendered one-dimensional, Howell will put up a ton of points and it still won’t be enough.
I’m laying the points in this one.
Full-Game Total Pick
Who likes offensive shootouts? If you raised your hand, you’ve come to the right place because Sam Howell and Devin Leary are headed for a showdown for the ages. NC State’s run defense will frustrate North Carolina enough for Howell to drop back to throw more than normal in this matchup. Leary will do the same on the other side because that’s just what the Wolfpack do. Their rushing offense isn’t blowing anyone away, and they’ll need a lot of points to outpace a Tar Heels offense averaging 37 points per game. Give me the over in this meeting.