These traditional rivals are more accustomed to fighting it out on the hardwood but both teams enter tonight’s contest with a 2-0 record. The North Carolina football team hasn’t been favored in a ACC game since 2016 but that could change if Mack Brown’s Tar Heels continue to play as well as they have in the early going. Wake Forest’s football program has seen dramatic improvement during the last four years. The Demon Deacons were 3-9 SU in 2015 but haven’t had a losing season since. Then again, they haven’t had a strong ‘breakout’ season either putting up records of 7-6, 8-5 and 7-6.
North Carolina will make the short 77 mile trip down I-40 East for Friday’s game so even though they’re the ‘road team’ they should have plenty of supporters in attendance. Wake Forest is scoring points in bunches in the early going–they have the #12 total offense and the #33 scoring offense which is all that a near 40 point per game average (39.5 to be exact) gets you nowadays. North Carolina has the #58 scoring defense giving up 22.5 PPG but they’ve definitely faced the tougher schedule thus far. The Tar Heels have won outright as an underdog against South Carolina (+11.5) and Miami (+4). This is their first trip on the road this season and they’ll return home next week for a tough game against Appalachian State and a very tough game the week after against Clemson.
The Demon Deacons won in a shootout over Utah State though failed to cover as -4.5 home favorites. Next up, they pushed as a -20 road chalk at Rice in a 41-21 victory. Rice was 2-11 last year so it remains to be seen if they can impose their offensive will against a better opponent. The win over the Owls didn’t look as impressive on the stat sheet as it did on the score board–Rice actually held a 20-19 edge in first downs and put up 300 yards of total offense. Considering that Utah State dropped nearly 600 yards of offense against Wake it’s fair to say that the defense is a concern. The Wake scoring defense is ranked #88 in the nation (28 PPG against) and #112 in total defense giving up 485.5 yards per game. That’s a lot for a team that has only played one competitive opponent thus far. It’s one thing to be giving up 6.07 yards per play against the likes of Utah State, another entirely when you’re facing Rice.
Wake Forest is just 5-8 ATS in their last 13 home games and 4-6 in their last 10 spots as a favorite. They have done well in close matchups with a line between +3 and -3–in these games they’re 6-1 SU/ATS. North Carolina is off of a pair of miserable seasons (2-9 in 2018, 3-9 in 2017) so their numbers are going to look pretty ugly no matter how you slice them. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo has brought a spread offense to Chapel Hill and he’s likely picked up some tricks watching Gary Andersen’s Utah State Aggies move the ball at will against Wake Forest. He’s got a talented true freshman running the offense–quarterback Sam Howell is completing 65% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. Wake has Elon on deck but could be in for a tough outing on their next road contest (9/28/19 at Boston College). If the recent struggles of the North Carolina program cause Wake to be unfocused or take the Tar Heels lightly it won’t go well for them. Tar Heels win outright to go to 3-0 SU/ATS.