North Carolina vs. Appalachian State Odds, Picks, Predictions for College Football Week 1 Matchup on Saturday
Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Drake Maye (North Carolina)
- Out goes Sam Howell for North Carolina as it travels to Appalachian State for a college football Week 1 affair.
- The Tar Heels are actually slight dogs in this matchup in Boone, but can they cover the spread?
- Cody Goggin dives in and offers up his best bet.
North Carolina vs. Appalachian State Odds
Sam Howell had been the driving force behind North Carolina’s offense for the three years that Mack Brown has been in Chapel Hill. Howell had been great, with over 10,283 yards and 92 touchdowns on his way to being selected in the NFL draft.
His replacement will be the greatest unknown for UNC football this season.
Shawn Clark is starting his third year as head coach in Boone. His first two seasons have gone well, as he has compiled a record of 19-7 following the departure of Eli Drinkwitz.
The Mountaineers return a lot of their important players from a year ago, but they also have some holes to fill, specifically at wide receiver.
Seeing a Power Five team like North Carolina come to Boone is awesome and great for the sport, but will the Group of Five school be able to use this home-field advantage to get a win?
Tar Heels Offense
Replacing Howell will be a challenge, but Drake Maye will step in to fill this void. You’ll probably hear it on every single segment regarding UNC this year, but Maye is the younger brother of North Carolina basketball legend Luke Maye.
Also departing from this Tar Heels roster is running back Ty Chandler, who ran for 1,092 yards last season.
Three starting offensive linemen will have to be replaced, as well.
The 2021 version of the Tar Heels offense was focused on replacing almost all of their weapons from the season before, such as Javonte Williams, Michael Carter and Dazz Newsome. They were still able to rank 33rd in Success Rate, coming in at 74th in passing and 13th in rushing.
Josh Downs is the name to know on the North Carolina offense. Last year, he had 101 catches for 1,335 yards and eight touchdowns. He will be a highly sought-after prospect in next spring’s NFL draft.
North Carolina has already played a game, so we were able to get a glimpse of what it may be. While it was against FCS Florida A&M — which was missing players due to eligibility issues — this offense still looked dynamic.
Maye threw for 294 yards and five touchdowns, with Downs having nine catches for 78 yards. Two of those grabs were scores en route to a 56-24 victory.
Tar Heels Defense
Defense has not been the strength of North Carolina over the last couple of years. Last year, the Heels ranked 100th in Success Rate, coming in at 114th against the run and 85th versus the pass.
Eight starters will be returning on this defense. While it didn’t perform well last year, this amount of continuity should lend itself to North Carolina having a stronger defense in 2022.
Appalachian State has been one of the darling Group of Five teams for years now. This season the Mountaineers have a very real chance at earning a trip to a New Year's Six Bowl.
Coming off of a 10-4 season in 2021, Chase Brice returns at quarterback after throwing for 3,337 yards, 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Joining the former Duke quarterback in Boone are their four leading rushers from last year and an offensive line that brings back four starters and is likely the best in the Sun Belt Conference.
Last season, the Mountaineers ranked 42nd in Offensive Success Rate in the country. Brice was able to power them to having the 22nd-best passing attack to complement their 67th-ranked run game.
However, Appalachian State will only be returning 15.4% of its receiving yards from last year.
The most productive wide receiver coming back is Christian Wells, who had just 12 catches for 243 yards and two scores.
Kaedin Robinson and Tyler Page transfer in from UCF and SMU, respectively, but this amount of turnover in the receiving corps will likely cause the Mountaineers to be less productive through the air than last season, at least toward the start of the year.
The Appalachian State defense is historically the main driver of its success, and 2021 was no exception. The unit ranked 12th in the country in Defensive Success Rate and was strong in both facets (9th in rushing and 30th in passing).
Unfortunately, this season the Mountaineers will have to deal with turnover on this side of the ball. Just five starters return on defense, with most of them being on the back end.
The largest losses are D’Marco Jackson, Demetrius Taylor and T.D. Roof, who combined for 16 sacks and 23.5 TFLs in 2021. Replacing this amount of disruption will be tough.
Last season, App State created one of the most chaotic defenses, ranking third in the nation in Defensive Havoc Rate.
North Carolina vs. Appalachian State Betting Pick
Both offenses in this game look to be strong, but Appalachian State will be replacing a lot of receiving production and may take awhile to get going.
On the other side of the ball, North Carolina’s defense wasn’t as fierce as App State’s last year, but it returns much more production.
I expect this game to be a higher-scoring affair, with North Carolina coming out on top on the back of its explosive offense. The losses on defense and at wide receiver will prove to be too much for Appalachian State to overcome in Week 1 against a talented power-conference opponent.