College Football Week 3 Betting Odds & Pick for Virginia vs. North Carolina: Howell, Heels Offense to Shine Against Cavs?
Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: UNC QB Sam Howell
Virginia vs. North Carolina Odds
-115o / -105u
|North Carolina Odds|
-115o / -105u
North Carolina-Virginia isn't your typical must-watch tilt in the ACC.
The Tar Heels' playoff chances took a hit with their opening-week loss to Virginia Tech, while Virginia's still occupied in the logjam of the conference.
However, if bettors are looking strictly for entertainment, this is one of the gems on the Week 3 slate.
There's Clemson, Miami and North Carolina atop the ACC, and other trendy picks such as Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and (insert blank, depending on the week).
Virginia tends to get swept under the rug. But after last week's matinee statement win over Illinois, perhaps the Cavaliers deserve a bump up.
They've outscored opponents, 85-14, so far with two easy covers. If they're aiming for a third, they'll need quarterback Brennan Armstrong to trade blows with an offense that can score in a hurry.
Virginia's offense was a question mark entering 2020 after losing dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins.
Armstrong took over in late September and never looked back.
The lefty led the Cavs to a 4-1 record down the stretch, including a 44-41 win over UNC in which he threw for three scores and added another on the ground.
So far, so good for the 6-foot-2 junior.
Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei, Miami's D'Eriq King and UNC's Sam Howell were all in the thick of the 2021 preseason Heisman race. Two weeks in, it's Armstrong who leads the ACC in passing touchdowns (seven), yards per game (372) and efficiency (196.4).
Virginia's had a knack for the big play so far, ranking third in explosive rate and fifth in passing success rate.
Virginia blanked William & Mary in the opener, then faced Illinois' backup quarterback last week. Still, the Cavaliers are somehow outside the top-100 in both line yards (No. 108) and pass blocking (No. 106).
Although the Cavs came out with the upset win over the Tar Heels last year, they let Howell go off for 443 yards and four scores with zero picks.
North Carolina was Jekyll and Hyde in the first two weeks. It was a shell of itself in the 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech before steamrolling Georgia State 59-17.
Head coach Mack Brown got his team back on track in Week 2, but the Tar Heels have been inconsistent for bettors. The program's a dismal 0-5 against the spread after covering in the previous game.
Tar Heels Offense
Take out the Virginia Tech game, and we're probably still discussing Howell as a Heisman candidate. However, he was flat-out lost in the opener, tossing three picks and posting a negative EPA per play.
North Carolina took out its frustration last week against a Sun Belt defense, collecting more than 600 yards of offense.
The voids left by wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome have been successfully filled by Josh Downs. He's the undisputed WR1 as he's just one of three players in the country with eight-plus catches through two games.
Howell's playing behind an experienced line that's just outside the top-20 nationally in pass blocking. The front has a big edge against a sub-par pass rush, which should in turn unlock North Carolina's big-play ability.
Tar Heels Defense
It's been tough to gauge the Tar Heels' defense, considering the circumstances. Virginia Tech preferred to play keep-away, while Georgia State never really stood a chance.
UNC has oddly been worse at getting after the quarterback than Virginia, while the havoc rate's been virtually non-existent.
This will be the biggest test for the unit, and if it can't stop the run — No. 97 nationally in success rate — it'll open up explosive plays for Armstrong and the offense, just as we saw last week vs. Illinois.
Virginia vs. North Carolina Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Virginia and North Carolina match up statistically:
Virginia Offense vs. North Carolina Defense
North Carolina Offense vs. Virginia Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Virginia vs. North Carolina Betting Pick
The offenses have the upper hand in this matchup: passing success, havoc rate, you name it. These are two units that would happily take the field if running the ball was strictly prohibited.
The Virginia Tech game may scare bettors away from playing the over, but Virginia's defense doesn't hold a candle to its in-state rival. Frankly, if you can roll out North Carolina's offense in a normal game state — and preferably not in front of a raucous Blacksburg crowd playing Enter Sandman on repeat — you'll likely see more of what transpired last week against Georgia State than what we did in the opener.
Unlike the Hokies, the Cavaliers welcome a fast-paced tempo. They've been one of the best 'Over' plays in the conference, cashing 13 of the last 18 overall and 10 of the last 13 versus ACC opponents.
Explosive plays, lots of points and a bunch of possessions are in store Saturday. This was one of the first totals I bet earlier in the week, and one I'd be comfortable taking up to 67.