Opening line: UNC +2.5
Current line (as of 10 PM 9/18): UNC +3
First impressions: This is about what you can expect for a 1-2 North Carolina Tar Heels team against the 3-0 Duke Blue Devils. If this game was in Wallace Wade Stadium, you might see Duke favored by a touchdown. Instead, UNC is a home underdog for the second time this year.
That seems fair, especially at a margin of only a field goal. UNC has yet to show it can play a full 60 minutes against P5 competition this year, while Duke has wins against Baylor and Northwestern already on its résumé.
Why this is the line: Anything goes in a rivalry game, and a line of +3 is about where I would put it. The last four years, the largest the line has been in this rivalry has been -11.5 in favor of North Carolina last year (which...was obviously not covered). Although Baylor and Northwestern aren’t power Power 5 schools at the moment, they’re still regarded as a class above Old Dominion, which is unfortunately UNC’s sole win at the moment. UNC +3 may be a little bit generous.
How the line could still move: The line has already been nudged ever so slightly toward UNC, indicating that Duke saw a lot of early action when the margin was still less than a field goal. A line of +3 has a pretty strong gravitational pull just because of how likely it is to occur on the football field. The line could still increase if UNC’s injury woes continue with players being ruled out long before kickoff.
My advice: I would never in my right mind advise betting against UNC when they’re playing Duke. So I won’t. And to all my impartials out there, there is a lot of value at UNC +3. The Tar Heels certainly hasn’t had trouble scoring in its first three games of the season, so we’ll gladly take the three free points at home. Duke has covered in all three of its wins so far, but this is their first road game of the season. Take the points, and we’ll take the Victory Bell back.