College Football Free Picks: North Carolina To Roll Duke In Tobacco Road Rivalry

North Carolina Tar Heels Player Runs With Ball

Jay Pryce

Monday, November 7, 2016 5:11 PM UTC

Monday, Nov. 7, 2016 5:11 PM UTC

No. 15 North Carolina travels a few miles down Tobacco Road to take on rival Duke on Thursday in ACC action with UNC favored by 11 on college football odds. The underdog has won three of the past four meetings.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Coach Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels (7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS on college football odds) are synonymous with an efficient quick-strike passing game, but it’s the defense carrying the day in the team’s current three-game winning streak. The unit has allowed 13, 14, and 20 points, respectively, in its last three against ACC opponents; it yielded 23 or more each of the first six games overall. During this run, the defense is holding foes to 13 points below their projected team total.

What’s the difference? Pass defense. The dfeense is yielding 181.2 passing yards per game, 10th fewest nationally. Teams attempt to run on the Tar Heels to keep the ball away from their explosive offense. UNC is rushed against on 63.2 percent of snaps and holds its own with 4.5 yards allowed per carry. Only lowly Rutgers (63.5) is asked to stop more on the ground out of Power 5 schools.

The Tar Heels average 6.2 yards per play offensively. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky trails Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson by just 46 passing yards (2,707) for most in the ACC. Wide receivers Ryan Switzer (728) and Bug Howard (658) rank third and fifth, respectively, for most receiving yards in conference.


Duke Blue Devils

Duke (3-6 SU, 6-3 ATS in college football picks) has covered four games in a row with redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones coming of age quickly during the run. The dual-threat owns a 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio since throwing five picks vs. Virginia in a 34-20 loss Oct. 1. Jones rushed for 99 yards and two scores on 18 carries against Virginia Tech in this past Saturday's 24-21 Duke loss. Jones will need to keep his newfound composure for the Blue Devils to pull off the upset here.

Defensively, the Blue Devils allow and ugly 6.0 yards per play but are good at generating turnovers with 1.8 forced per game.

David Cutcliffe is 2-0-1 ATS as a home dog against UNC, beating the Tar Heels 33-30 as an 11-point pup in 2012 the last time Duke gifted points in the series at Wallace Wade Stadium.


Final Analysis

The Blue Devils have been unable to slow down the Tar Heels’ passing game in the last two meetings, yielding 406.5 yards in the air per game (647.5 total yards). Cutcliffe’s unit entered each contest yielding less than 18 points per game. It allows 23.9 currently. Duke is young, particularly in the secondary, and will struggle to hold Carolina down again. In four games against teams allowing 200 passing yards per game or more this year, the Tar Heels have put up 35 points or more in each. Duke enters yielding 234.1 per game.  

To cover the spread against the Heels, Duke will have to keep up. It has scored more than 21 points just three times all season and only three times in eight matchups against UNC under Cutcliffe.


Free NCAAF Pick: Tar Heels -11Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

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