North Carolina vs. Wake Forest Betting Odds & Preview: Is UNC a Good Underdog Bet?

North Carolina vs. Wake Forest Betting Odds & Preview: Is UNC a Good Underdog Bet? article feature image
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Credit: Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports. Pictured: Mack Brown

North Carolina at Wake Forest Betting Odds & Pick

  • Spread: Wake Forest -3
  • Over/Under: 65.5
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN

All odds above as of Friday at 1 p.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

The Tar Heels will again be an underdog when they make the short, 70-minute bus ride to Winston-Salem on Friday to face Wake Forest.

UNC is on a bit of a heater, defeating both South Carolina (+11) and Miami (+5) outright as an underdog.

Many projection systems have these teams dead even on a neutral field, so how are we playing this game? Let’s dive in.

UNC’s Offensive Explosion

Head coach Mack Brown has delegated the offense to coordinator Phil Longo and the defense to coordinator Jay Bateman. And while both coaches have had success, it’s true freshman quarterback Sam Howell who has made next-level plays.

Prior to that game-winning touchdown, Howell completed a 20-yard pass on fourth-and-17, showing off this offense’s explosive potential.

North Carolina ranks No. 12 nationally with 15 plays of at least 20 yards, which is pretty remarkable considering its opponents. The only teams ahead of them are either elite like Alabama and Oklahoma, or haven’t played a real defense.

Wake Forest has taken a different path to this Week 3 showdown, failing to cover against Utah State and pushing vs. Rice.

An offensively-inept Rice team put up 321 yards on the Demon Deacons, while the Aggies racked up 596 yards in the opener.

Through two games, Wake Forest is 112th in total defense and 103rd in opponent yards per play. North Carolina’s offense should do enough to cover. — Collin Wilson

Collin’s Pick: North Carolina +3

Stuckey: UNC Love Gone Too Far

While my Collin has no shortage of love for the Tar Heels this year, I think the love in the market is now out of hand and like Wake at anything -3 or below.

Don’t underestimate the loss of senior starting corner Patrice Rene, who will miss the rest of an injury due to an injury sustained against Miami.

He’s not only the Heels’ best corner but their tallest, which is critical against Wake’s massive wideouts. Per Pro Football Focus, Rene led the ACC in opposing QB passer rating last season. — Stuckey

Alternate Ways to Play the Dog

College football scoring is more volatile than the NFL, and bettors can take advantage in a few different ways in games like UNC-Wake.

The first is by passing on the points and taking the moneyline instead, according to our data at Bet Labs.

Betting the moneyline on road underdogs of +3 or lower has resulted in a 7.2% ROI since 2005. It only hits 49% of the time, but because you’re getting anywhere from +100 to +150 on the moneyline, it’s been profitable.

You can also bet the first-half moneyline in games with high totals.

If the total is at least 60 and the full game spread is +10 or lower, taking a road underdog in the first half has resulted in a 42.5% winning percentage and 24.1% ROI.

First halves can often be more volatile than full games, so when the totals are high and the teams are relatively close in ability, the underdog enters the half with the lead more often than you’d expect.

If you take out the full game spread is +10 or lower filter, though, you get a 25% winning percentage and -11.4% ROI. The teams need to be fairly even for this system to work. — Steve Petrella

Carolina’s Defense Still Needs Work

North Carolina gutted out a win over Miami, but the Hurricanes still put up 488 yards and sputtered in the red zone at times.

The Heels ranked No. 95 in defensive S&P+ last season, and while improved, I don’t think they’ve made a jump into the top 50 or anything.

The total has risen from 62.5 to 66.5, so the value is sapped from that opener, but there will be plenty of points scored in this game.

It hasn’t been profitable on its own to tail big line moves on college football totals, but it has not been profitable to go the other way and fade line moves.

Betting against a total that’s moved at least three points — i.e. taking the under on the closing number in UNC-Wake Forest when it moved from 62.5 to 66.5 — has resulted in a -11.2% ROI and 45.8% winning percentage since 2005. — Steve Petrella