Opening line: UNC -7.5
Current line (as of 12 PM on 9/11): UNC -7.5
First impressions: Vegas nailed the UNC-Louisville game. The line closed at UNC +12 in most cases, and that was exactly the margin when the game ended. And now, despite being 0-2 and playing its first road game of the season, the Heels are favored for the second time this season.
This perhaps says much more about the Old Dominion Monarchs than it does about UNC. ODU has only been a member of the FBS since the 2013 season, and although they’re 2-0 this year, those two wins are against Albany and UMass. For an underwhelming P5 team traveling on the road to play a C-USA school, this seems about right, evidenced by the fact that the line didn’t move in the 24 hours after it went live.
Why this is the line: I don’t think Vegas expects a drubbing to the tune of the 80-20 scoreline ODU experienced at Kenan Memorial Stadium during their inaugural season. But they obviously do expect UNC to shake off an 0-2 start and return to winning ways against a lesser opponent.
As maudlin as we can get about the Louisville game, UNC performed exactly to expectations when it comes to Vegas. That’s a marked improvement from their 18.5-point underperformance against Cal in the season opener. That gives Vegas a reason to trust the Heels on the road in Norfolk.
How the line could still move: The line hasn’t moved yet, and the only way I can envision it moving is if Larry Fedora announces something regarding the current QB situation, and it’s almost guaranteed that won’t happen. It’s still unclear exactly what type of injury Chazz Surratt is dealing with, but it would not be very Fedora-like for him to go ahead and rule Surratt out and go with Brandon Harris.
We likely won’t know who’s starting until kickoff. And if we do, the line could be nudged a point or two either way. Although both Surratt and Harris looked good, Surratt showed more of a reason for Vegas to trust him.
My advice: Although this isn’t a conference game, this is still a must-win game for the Heels. This is UNC’s first time starting 0-2 since the cursed 2010 season, and the Heels haven’t started 0-3 since the 0-5 start from 2003. Since it now seems like wins are going to be at a premium in order to reach bowl eligibility, the Heels should come out with some intensity. I’d say take a chance on the Heels, especially if the line falls down to -7 for some reason.
Some history for you: UNC is 6-1 against the spread in its last seven games against C-USA foes. The last time UNC was a favorite on the road was against Duke last year, where despite being favored by 11.5, the Heels lost 28-27. The last time UNC was a favorite on the road and won was also last year, in Virginia, where the Heels were 11-point favorites and won 35-14.