North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell (7) stands back to pass during the first half of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Texas A&M, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

NCAAF Best Bets, Sept. 3

For the first actual week of college football, with the addition of AP Top 25 matchups, there is plenty of action to roll in some dead presidents. Even before what will be one of the most electric betting days of the year, so far is a sexy penultimate slate made up of some terrific Power Five talent. These few games this Friday will serve as a perfect warmup to Saturday’s football daylong marathon. After hitting 15 out of my last 18 ‘Best Bets’, here is what I’m riding with for this Friday edition of college football.

UNC (-6.5)
To kick off Friday night football is a game where the North Carolina Tar Heels are in Blacksburg, Virginia to play the Virginia Tech Hokies. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, this line opened up at UNC -5.5 but has moved which puts the Tar Heels at six and a half-point road favorites. Legendary Head Coach Mack Brown and 10th ranked North Carolina intend to lead a campaign similar to last year’s, and Brown will have a lot of help from returning Heisman hopeful QB Sam Howell. After an 8-4 season and losing a close game to a de facto playoff team in Texas A&M, the Tar Heels will be looking to take the next step towards being a top four team at the end of this year. Although Carolina lost some of the skill players that made their offense explosive last year, they will have a high octane mix of running backs and receivers that will keep their offense at or above the level they played at last year. They averaged about 42 points per game last season, whereas the Virginia Tech defense allowed 32 ppg. Since the Hokies don’t have near the big star recruits UNC has, count on the Tar Heels to score at will and cover in this matchup.    

UNC vs. Virginia Tech (Over 63.5)
Between these two programs, not much has changed in their DNA over the previous few seasons. They both have lousy defenses that rarely help them win games, and notably North Carolina has had a high scoring, fast-paced offense that has been great for overs. The Hokies also have a decent offense set up for this year because of the return of several starters. Carolina’s defense has been outstanding for the over where last season they let up an awful 29.4 ppg. Additionally, in the Tar Heels last five of six games against ACC opponents, the game total has gone over. Last year’s matchup with these schools ended up with 101 points scored and neither program has gained the defensive pedigree since then for that to change. Furthermore, North Carolina and Virginia Tech were 7/12 and 6/11 in overs last season, respectively. If you like points, expect this game to be an exciting and fairly competitive shootout.  

Michigan State (+3.5)
The last pick features a Big Ten showdown of the Northwestern Wildcats playing at home against the Michigan State Spartans. There hasn’t been much line movement for this one, seeing that the Wildcats opened up as three and a half-point favorites, which is the current spread. Michigan State is coming off a lackluster 2020 campaign, to say the least, where they finished last in the Big Ten East division. On the other hand, in a resurgence type season, Northwestern was able to capture a B10 West division title with their gritty play. Northwestern will yet again have their offensive and defensive hogs up front who set a relentless tone against any opponent they face. The battle in the trenches largely dictates the outcome of a game, and last year with one of the best units in the nation, their record was a direct reflection of their work up front. While the Spartans face a slight mismatch against the Wildcat big men, in a game where points will be hard to come by, I will be trusting the huge advantage MSU has at the skills positions over the Northwestern defense. Their receiving core stands as one of the best in the entire conference as well as ability and experience on their defense. These teams have similar styles, but youth and lack of ability to make splash plays will ultimately blow the Wildcat’s chances. Take the Spartan’s spread as insurance in case of a potential heartbreak.     

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