An excellent appetizer for next week’s ACC Championship Game is this week’s game between the no. 17 North Carolina Tar Heels and the no. 10 Miami Hurricanes. At home, the Hurricanes are 3-point favorites with the over/under set at 67.5 points.
Miami should be motivated for this game, as the Hurricanes have a chance to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Keep in mind that Miami’s only loss this season came against Clemson. Granted, the Hurricanes have had to survive some close games with Virginia, NC State, and Virginia Tech, but they are also coming off a dominating 48-0 win over Duke.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels have a lot to prove too. They have just three wins this season against teams with a winning record and would like to prove they belong in the same tier as Miami. North Carolina couldn’t pull off an upset over Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago but will be thrilled to get a second crack against a top-10 team.
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With all due respect to Clemson and Notre Dame, the Tar Heels might have the most balanced and explosive offense in the ACC. Running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams are both less than 100 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard mark, and both are averaging better than six yards per carry in 2020. Then there’s Sam Howell, who has largely lived up to lofty preseason expectations. He’s averaging 10.5 yards per pass thanks to the dynamic receiving duo of Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome.
That group of playmakers should pose a considerable challenge for the Miami defense. While the Hurricanes shut out Duke last week, they’ve had some issues on that side of the ball. Naturally, teams with balanced attacks have given them the most trouble. If the Hurricanes can’t get a handle on the UNC rushing attack early, they won’t be able to unleash their pass rush on Howell, which could get them into trouble.
With two games left to play, it’s safe to say that quarterback D’Eriq King’s season at Miami has been an enormous success. Of course, King has created plenty of trouble for opposing defenses as a runner. But he’s also been a more proficient passer than he was at Houston. King has completed 64% of his passes with 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He’s also done an excellent job of spreading the ball around, helping Miami score over 40 points in four of their nine games.
King and the Hurricanes will be a handful for the UNC defense. Defensive shortcomings have plagued the Tar Heels at times and cost them a couple of games. While they held their own against Notre Dame briefly, they ultimately couldn’t hang with a top-flight offense. In 10 games, North Carolina has given up at least 30 points five times and over 40 points three times.
If Miami were more reliable defensively, it’d be easier to take the Hurricanes to win and cover. However, it’s hard to trust them against UNC’s balanced attack. There’s also no reason to have faith in the North Carolina defense. Ultimately, the best bet in this game is taking the over on 67.5 points.
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