Our resident college football handicapping professional has found the best early totals pick on the opening week board with the North Carolina vs. South Carolina game being played on Thursday.
South Carolina vs. North Carolina (Charlotte, North Carolina): Thursday 9/3 6:00 PM ET
According to current college football betting odds, the major sportsbooks have this total anywhere from 63.5 to 64.5. This contest will be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte which is home to the NFL Carolina Panthers. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.
The good news for both teams is that they return plenty of starters on defense. The bad news, those returning starters was part of stop units which were awful a season ago.
North Carolina allowed opponents 39.0 points and 498 yards per game last year. They were equally as bad against the run as they were versus opponents passing attacks. The Tar Heels allowed 241 yards on the ground and 257 passing yards per game.
South Carolina was expected to have a very good defense last season, and things didn’t go anywhere near as expected. The Gamecocks allowed 33.2 points and 443 yards per game. Similar to their 2015 opening game opponent (North Carolina), they were just as bad against the run as they were defending aerial attacks. The Gamecocks allowed 212 yards rushing and 220 yards passing per game.
“The Ole Ball Coach Factor”
South Carolina only returns four players on offense. What’s even more concerning, the quarterbacks on their roster have combined to make 0 career starts. However, they have one of the most innovative and creative offensive minds in college football roaming their sideline. Steve Spurrier always finds a way to develop young quarterbacks that perform well ahead of schedule. They also return big play wide receiver Pharoh Cooper who had 69 receptions for 1136 yards (16.5 YPC) and 9 touchdowns last season. Cooper also rushed for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns as well.
Potentially Dynamic Offense
The Tar Heels offense returns 10 starters from a unit which averaged 33.2 points and 429 yards per game. They’ll be led by a budding star in junior quarterback Marquise Williams. All Williams did a season ago was amass 3068 yards passing, complete 63.1% of his attempts, and tossed 21 touchdown passes against just 9 interceptions. Williams can also torture opponents with his legs, evidenced by his 788 yards rushing, and running for 13 touchdowns. He’ll be the beneficiary of North Carolina returning their top four receivers. Most notable returning wide receivers are projected starters Ryan Switzer who led the team with 61 receptions last year, and Mack Hollins who had 8 touchdown catches and averaged a robust 17.5 yards per reception in 2014.
Granted that this is a pretty high total for an opening game, but one in which I feel is extremely accurate with all being considered. You’ll hear both camps recite that they’ll be much improved defensively in 2015. However, talk is cheap, and reality will set in early and often on Thursday night.
I like this contest to be a high scoring affair, and one of my college football picks this week will reflect that prediction. Currently (8/31) it’s Pinnacle which offers the best combination of number and price for this wager.
College Football Picks: Play on North Carolina and South Carolina over 63.5 (-106)