College Football Picks: East Carolina at North Carolina Odds and Predictions

Doc MosemanCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Quarterback Bryn Renner #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels hands off to tailback Khris Francis #1 during the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field on September 21, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Conference USA’s East Carolina Pirates will try and snap a four-game losing streak to the ACC’s North Carolina Tar Heels this Saturday in an in-state clash at Kenan Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. (ET), and the game will be available on ESPN3.

The Pirates fell to 2-1 straight up on the year with a 15-10 loss to Virginia Tech this past Saturday as eight-point underdogs at home. After failing to cover in home victories over Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic, they are 1-2 against the spread. The total has stayed “under” in their last two games.

North Carolina came up short against Georgia Tech in a 28-20 loss as a 6.5-point road underdog this past Saturday. The Tar Heels are now 1-2 both SU and ATS on the year, with the total staying under in all three games. They are 1-0 SU and ATS as a favorite at home.


East Carolina at North Carolina Betting Storylines

East Carolina has really struggled to move the ball on the ground this season with an average of just 63.3 rushing yards a game. However, behind quarterback Shane Carden, they have done a good job moving the ball through the air. He has completed an impressive 82-of-110 attempts for 796 yards and eight touchdown throws. His favorite target has been Justin Hardy, who has compiled 26 receptions for 258 yards and one score. Last Saturday against the Hokies, this passing attack was basically grounded with just 158 total yards. The Pirates had a little more than 200 yards of total offense on the day.

Even though they could not move the ball against Virginia Tech, the Pirates have to feel pretty good about their defense heading into this week’s contest. This unit held the Hokies to 311 yards on the day, and it was especially effective at stopping the run. It will need another big effort from this group on Saturday in its first game this season on the road.

The Tar Heels are another team that likes to throw the ball. They are averaging 111.3 rushing yards a game as compared to 263 yards a game through the air. The big arm behind this aerial attack is Bryn Renner. He has thrown for 751 yards and four touchdowns in his first three games while completing 59.4 percent of his attempts. This past Saturday against the Yellow Jackets, he went 14-for-29 for 218 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. North Carolina actually led that game 20-7 at the half, but it was shutout in the final two quarters of play.

The loss to the Yellow Jackets was a tough day all around for the Tar Heels’ defense. Not only did it blow a sizable lead in the second half, but it was plagued with a rash of injuries including linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and a pair of safeties in Chris Melton and Jamal Golden. Their playing status for this game is still questionable at this time.


East Carolina at North Carolina Betting Odds and Trends by 5Dimes

Pointspread: North Carolina -11

Total Line: OFF

The Pirates are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games following a SU loss but just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games against the ACC. The total has gone “over” in five of their last seven nonconference games.

The Tar Heels are a perfect 6-0 ATS in their last six contests against a team from C-USA. They are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 home games, and the total has gone over in five of their last six games played at home.

Head-to-head in this state rivalry, North Carolina is 5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS in the last six meetings dating back to 2003. The total has stayed under in the last three meetings. The Tar Heels beat the Pirates 27-6 in last year’s game as 15.5-point home favorites. The total stayed under the 63.5-point closing line.


College Football Picks: East Carolina at North Carolina Betting Predictions

East Carolina is still one of the better teams in C-USA but is in a bit over its head on the road against the Tar Heels. The average margin of victory in North Carolina’s last four victories in this series has been 18.8 points, and it is not about to let its guard down this week, especially after last Saturday’s collapse against Georgia Tech.


Take: #126 North Carolina (-11) over East Carolina (12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28)