East Carolina Pirates (1-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) 12 p.m. EST, September 19th, 2009, Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC, TV: ESPN2
By Oracle of Predictem.com
Point Spread: East Carolina +7/ North Carolina -7
Its not often a team can say they won on a safety, but for North Carolina thats exactly the case after a 12-10 win against Connecticut last Saturday. Theyre No. 19 ranking in the polls comes mostly from their preseason status, as their first two wins have been less than stellar.
Taking on the once mid-major upset machine in the East Carolina Pirates may help ease some of their burdens. The Pirates come into the contest 1-1 straight up on the season, as they have given up 59 points and won their only game by four points over I-AA Appalachian State.
Although the ranked Tar Heels are at home in Chapel Hill, online sportsbooks have started this spread somewhat on the slim side by favoring the Tar Heels -7 in a game that will be televised on ESPN2 at 12 p.m. Eastern.
Even more interesting is the over/under, which opens at a meager 42 points.
The two biggest reasons for that total deals directly with North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense is legit, returning nine starters from a season ago. The other reason is because UNCs offense has been pretty maligned the first two weeks.
Sure, they played The Citadel and put up 40 points in that contest during week one, but they were shut out against Connecticut this past Saturday until the fourth quarter.
Its probably not surprising their offense isnt at full strength . Although quarterback T.J. Yates is back, their top three wideouts were NFL Draft picks in April (Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, and Brooks Foster). Yates has thrown three picks in two games already this season after throwing just four in seven games a year ago.
Yates doesnt mind playing ECU though, as two years ago in their last meeting, he put together a nice state line with 344 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 loss.
The bad news for Yates is that there is nearly a 50% chance of rain for Saturday afternoon. That means theyll have to rely on Shaun Draughn and the ground game. Draughn gained 866 yards a season ago and has 139 and two scores to start this season.
The Pirates are somewhat in the same boat as UNC with a veteran starting quarterback in Patrick Pinkney who has thrown for 306 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.
Hell go up against the seventh best defense in the nation. UNC gives up an average of just 174.5 yards a game so far in 2009. Theyre also 14th in rush defense at 51 yards while forcing six turnovers and 16 total points in two games.
The head-to-head contest two years ago can be thrown out the window even though the two starting quarterbacks in that game are still starting. The other skill position players, most notably ECUs alumni and Tennessee Titans stud Chris Johnson, are absent.
Even though the Pirates havent been in the rankings for the past couple of years, bettors will be interested to know theyre 6-1 ATS in their last seven contests against teams with winning records. They have struggled with ACC teams of late though, going 1-4 ATS in the last five.
UNC doesnt have any big trends, but they are 6-2 ATS when they didnt cover the game before, which they failed to do against UConn.
Also, although the under may seem like a nice play with the UNC defense versus the ECU offense, the over is a big trend. The over is 5-1 in their last six home games and its 4-0 in ECUs last four non-conference games.
The Tar Heels are trying to overcome some key losses on offense, so a nice non-conference game against the Pirates may give them some cohesion they need. The Pirates, though, are trying to get back on the national map. Theyll have a tough time doing it on the road.
Oracles Pick: The Tar Heels defense will be all over the place in this contest. Look for them to dominate most of the game and keep the pressure off of the offense. Take UNC -7 at home!