Virginia at North Carolina
Saturday, 12:30 pm PT
CRIS Opener: Virginia -2.5 O/U 55
CRIS Current: Virginia -3.5 O/U 51
Give North Carolina credit for hanging as tough as possible last week versus Notre Dame before finally tiring defensively en-route to their 33-10 loss. The lack of offensive playmakers combined with the on the job training of redshirt freshman quarterback Chaz Surratt continues to take its toll on the defense which has now been on the field for an average of 81 plays the past three weeks. There’s no letup in sight this week with Virginia marching into Kenan Stadium with their high tempo 76.8 total plays per game offense. The Cavaliers also appear to be rounding into the form of a hard-nosed Bronco Mendenhall style defense as evidenced by their pair of recent efforts which held Boise State to a season low 23 points and Duke to a season low 255 total yards.
Focus doesn’t figure to be a problem for either side here since this is a heated rivalry but in the case of UNC, effort is only going so far at this point. Last week on 14 offensive possessions, the Tar Heels began the game with five straight three and outs followed by a fumble on the Notre Dame 30-yard line and then another punt. After a 47-yard TD drive, they closed the half by getting nailed for a safety with 10 seconds left. In all, over the past two weeks, North Carolina’s offense has had the ball 26 times which have resulted in 15 punts, 5 turnovers (3 interceptions and 2 fumbles), 2 missed field goals (40 and 52 yards), 1 safety, 2 TDs and 1 FG. It’s hard to envision things getting significantly better with the injury list being what it is and an opponent that’s gaining confidence defensively each week.
The Cavs' playbook began opening up four games ago against Indiana and it is wide open now. Virginia Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae has successfully directed high powered spread offenses throughout his career and he’s got one here that’s just hitting the tip of the iceberg. Kurt Benkert has displayed the arm strength, accuracy and grasp of the system the past three games and his cast of WR’s appear acclimated as well. UVA’s passing game had a bit of a rough outing last week but made enough plays against a rugged Duke defense to get them the win. They should find balance much easier to come by in this matchup against a North Carolina defense that ranks 114th nationally in total yards allowed (121 vs. the run, 73 vs. the pass). Add to that another major injury for the Tar Heels as the leader of their secondary SS Donnie Miles (3rd on team in tackles) is out this week. Always have to be wary of a team playing with effort in a home underdog role off of a home loss but the circumstances here are overwhelmingly lopsided in favor of Virginia. Line spiked up to -3.5 during the week and have to agree with the money in this spot. Preference here is to play the ascending UVA group that figures to be 7+ points better than the home side.