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North Carolina vs. Syracuse Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Orange in Free Fall, Heels on the Rise (Sept. 12)

North Carolina vs. Syracuse Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Orange in Free Fall, Heels on the Rise (Sept. 12) article feature image

John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dazz Newsome (8).

  • North Carolina is a huge favorite over Syracuse in their opening game of the 2020 season, with the total all the way up to 65.5.
  • UNC is a program on the rise with sophomore quarterback Sam Howell under center, while Cuse is trying to install a new defense and lacks continuity from last year's team.
  • Get Collin Wilson's UNC vs. Syracuse pick and breakdown below.

North Carolina vs. Syracuse Odds

North Carolina Odds -22.5 [BET NOW]
Syracuse Odds +22.5 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 65.5 [BET NOW]
Time 12 p.m. ET
TV ACC Network

Odds as of Friday at 1:00 a.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

The hype surrounding the Tar Heels football program has steadily grown throughout the summer and is approaching a fever pitch.

I mean, are we really doing this again? We’re going to prop up another ACC Coastal team and convince ourselves that this is the year that a real challenger finally emerges from the division?

Well, for one, the ACC Coastal doesn’t technically exist this year as the conference executes a pseudo-round robin schedule. And secondly, yes: I’m here to tell you that the buzz around North Carolina football is not just white noise. It’s backed up by quantifiable data that hints at UNC’s potential to disrupt the top of the ACC.

Check out our free NCAAF odds page, which automatically surfaces the best line for every game.

North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels return 87% of an offense that ranked 16th in passing Expected Points Added (EPA) last season. Head coach Mack Brown has a future Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Sam Howell and an arsenal of explosive receivers led by Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome.

Offensive coordinator Phil Longo has long been known for his explosive offenses. Prior to joining the Tar Heels last season, Longo was the architect behind Ole Miss’ 2018 aerial assault featuring future NFL wide receivers in A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf.

Now, North Carolina has the dynamic athletes to maximize Longo’s scheme and play-calling. The Tar Heels’ elite skill position players complement Longo’s explosive offensive philosophy, forming a deadly combination that can expose any secondary.

ACC Freshman of the Year Sam Howell threw 38 touchdown passes in 2019, which is the third-highest single-season total in ACC history. #ACCFootball

— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) March 25, 2020

North Carolina’s practice reports contain everything you would want to see in order to back a college football team in its first game of the COVID-19 era:

  • A hungry and experienced front-seven that ranked top-45 in stuff rate and power success in 2019.
  • Storm Duck and LaDaeson DeAndre Hollins in the secondary getting reps against the best receivers in college football.
  • And perhaps most importantly, zero reports of positive COVID-19 tests among the team’s roster of players. That’s especially remarkable for a school whose campus has been ravaged by the pandemic.

Syracuse Orange

The same cannot be said for Syracuse, which held only three spring practices as players refused to practice in early August. The Orange returns just 61% of its production on offense and ranked 114th in success rate last season.

Syracuse also ranked among the bottom-five FBS teams in sack rate allowed and ranked 103rd in havoc allowed. Four offensive lineman return with at least eight career starts, and it is imperative that those experienced linemen improve in pass protection. Last year, quarterback Tommy Devito completed 71% of his passes from a clean pocket, but his completion rate dropped to 31% when under pressure.

Still, the biggest handicap in this game may be the Orange’s defensive scheme change. Tony White takes over as defensive coordinator and will implement a 3-3-5 scheme. That is a huge transition for Syracuse’s returning defenders, who contributed 42% of the Orange’s 2019 production and primarily ran a 4-2-5 scheme, per Sport Source Analytics.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The Action Network Power Ratings project the Tar Heels as 19.5-point favorites against Syracuse. However, the Orange’s defensive scheme change — potentially hampered by limited practice opportunities — puts Syracuse at a significant disadvantage.

While I plan to have a half-unit on North Carolina pre-kick, keep in mind that Sam Howell is a fourth-quarter behemoth. It would not be surprising if the Tar Heels’ stud sophomore needs a few drives against the 3-3-5 before making the proper reads to his explosive targets. Look for a Live in-game wager on North Carolina if the offense stalls early in the contest.

The Bet: North Carolina -22.5

[Bet North Carolina -22.5 now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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