Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#185 Virginia vs.
#186 North Carolina (UNC)
Saturday, September 18, 2021 at 7:30pm EDT
Written by Nick Raffoul

The Virginia Cavaliers will open the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule with an early-season tilt on the road against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Saturday night.

The Tar Heels shook off a disappointing season-opening loss versus Virginia Tech last week to improve to 1-1 with a win over Georgia State. Meanwhile, Virginia will be playing in its first ACC game of the season after throttled Illinois in its final non-conference game last weekend. Despite coming into the game with a 2-0 record, the Cavaliers enter the game as eight-point underdogs in Chapel Hill.

Can the Cavaliers remain undefeated with a road win at North Carolina on Saturday night?

Armstrong, Cavaliers' offense off to red-hot start

Virginia got out to an early lead and never looked back in a 42-14 win at home versus Illinois last weekend. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong completed 27 of 36 passes for 405 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception on the day while Jelani Wood finished with five catches for 122 yards and a score in the win. Sophomore Dontayvion Wicks also caught two touchdowns for the Cavaliers, who finished with 556 yards of total offense in the win.

Armstrong’s five-touchdown game was the breakout performance that Cavaliers fans were hoping for. In two games, Armstrong has completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 744 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception while also accounting for two scores on the ground. The 6-foot-2 quarterback also flashed his versatility by lining up at wide receiver and catching a pass in the win over Illinois. Armstrong leads an offense that is off to a red-hot start, averaging 42.5 points and 550.5 yards of total offense per game.

On defense, Virginia has surrendered just seven points per game, good for fourth in the nation. The Cavaliers also rank 18th in the country at 260 yards per game and 23rd in passing yards allowed at 155 per contest.

Howell, UNC look to build off blowout win vs. Georgia State

North Carolina punished Georgia State in a 59-17 win in its home opener last weekend. Quarterback Sam Howell completed 21-of-29 for 352 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions on the day. He also led the team in rushing with 11 carries for 104 yards and two scores. Senior receiver Antoine Green had a big game as well, catching three balls for 117 yards and a touchdown in the win.

A preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, Howell comes into the week with 560 passing yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions through two games. The junior signal-caller leads an offense that is averaging 34.5 points and 480.5 yards of total offense per game. However, there are still plenty of question marks surrounding the unit after it managed just 10 points in the season-opening loss at Virginia Tech.

The Tar Heels need another receiver other than Josh Downs to emerge as a viable target. The 5-foot-10 sophomore has 16 catches for 196 yards with two touchdowns but no other pass-catcher has caught more than five passes this year.

On defense, the Tar Heels have flashed improvement by allowing just 17 points in each of their first two contests. North Carolina has given up just 283.5 total yards per game, including just 129.5 yards per game through the air, which ranks 11th in the country.

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Full-Game Side Bet

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North Carolina might be the more high-profile team but the Cavaliers have actually had the ACC’s best offense to this point in the season. Virginia has some unheralded playmakers on offense, including 6-foot-7 tight end Jelani Woods, who has proven to be a valuable weapon in the Cavaliers’ passing game. Armstrong has also shown some maturity as a passer this season, which should give the Cavaliers some confidence heading into this week’s showdown. UNC quarterback Sam Howell padded his stats against Georgia State last week but he didn’t fare well against Virginia Tech and could have a hard time against another top pass defense this week. Take Virginia to cover the spread on the road against the Tar Heels on Saturday.

Prediction: Virginia Cavaliers +8

Full-Game Total Pick

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These two teams are projected for 66.5 points but that number might be set a bit too high in this spot. While this is being advertised as a battle between two high-scoring offenses, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this turn into a defensive slugfest. Virginia has been terrific on both sides of the ball this year but its offense has stolen most of the headlines. The Cavaliers’ defense comes in ranked fourth in scoring defense and in the top-25 in both total defense and passing defense. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels have been better-than-advertised on that side of the ball, giving up just 17 points in each of their first two contests. Take this game to stay under the projected total on Saturday.

Prediction: Under 66.5

Written By Nick Raffoul , "Nick Raffoul"

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. He has been a very successful sports bettor over the years and has now brought his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.