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North Carolina football favored by double digits against Cal

UNC is the heavy favorite in its first game of the season. Is that a good thing or bad thing?

Texas v California Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Opening line: UNC -8

Current line: UNC -11

First impressions: Despite the fact that Coach Larry Fedora still has yet to name a starter, and in fact implied the Heels may field more than one quarterback against the Cal Golden Bears, UNC is still favored by eleven points. Since opening at -8, the line has moved three points in favor of UNC, indicating that the betting markets saw good value at UNC being favored by just a little more than a touchdown.

Why this is the line: The Heels may have turned over their entire offense, but their defense is still largely intact and they have one of the best cornerbacks in the nation in M.J. Stewart. Meanwhile, Cal is coming off a 5-7 season and has a new coach in Justin Wilcox, who is entering his first-ever season as the head of a college football program. Combine that with the fact that the Heels are playing at home (which, as a rule of thumb, is generally worth three points when looking at a point spread) and there you have double digits.

How the line could still move: If Fedora actually names a starting quarterback before kickoff, the line could be nudged a point or two in either direction. Vegas will probably add a point or two if Fedora goes with the graduate transfer Brandon Harris, and it might fall back to double digits should Fedora go with the untested Chazz Surratt. UNC also lost a starter on Monday when OL Jared Cohen left the program. It remains to be seen whether or not that will affect the spread.

My advice: No matter what, the person at quarterback is going to be starting their first game for UNC. The same goes for whoever starts the game at running back...as well as most of the wide receivers and the majority of the offensive line. You need a high-octane offense to outscore your opponents by double digits, and the current UNC roster doesn’t really have any evidence of that. (Vegas seems to think both programs are going to rack it up, though—the point total is hovering around 54 to 55 points). Week 1 in college football is always really wacky, so play it safe. I wouldn’t recommend making a play at all, but if you do, take the underdog. You never know what can happen in garbage time.