North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
Date and Time: Thursday, November 9, 2017, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Opening College Football Odds: Pittsburgh -10.5
North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh TV Coverage: ESPN
The Panthers seem to have found their stride just a bit. They were 9.5-point underdogs to Duke three weeks ago and were only just barely favorites at all of the top online sportsbooks against UVA the following week. Yet both games were won and won rather convincingly.
These results are a far cry from a team that was beaten by 19 by Penn State, 38 by Oklahoma State, 18 by Georgia Tech and 18 by N.C. State.
The difference here is clearly the play of Darrin Hall. All of a sudden, Hall has taken over this backfield these last two games, running the ball 49 times for 365 yards and four touchdowns. Prior to this, Qadree Ollison and Quadree Henderson had been the primary ball carriers, though neither man has been anywhere near effective.
The Tar Heels have had a frustrating season. This team obviously misses Mitchell Trubisky under center, but there are so many more problems than just the quarterback position. This is a team that has surrendered at least 47 points on two separate occasions against good, yet still middling ACC teams (Louisville and Virginia Tech) and only has a win to show for its work this season over Old Dominion.
After losing 24-19 to Miami last week, the Heels really looked visually defeated. It was a game that was there for the taking against a top-10 team, and one has to wonder if Larry Fedora can keep this squad up for the rest of the year knowing that there aren't any more truly big games and no hope to get to a bowl game.
We're not even going to try to run off the whole list of injuries the Tar Heels have had to deal with this year. A week and a half ago against Miami, Fedora's crew played without 21 scholarship players who were out due to various injuries. Sixteen of the 21 are out for the season.
The biggest question mark right now is Chazz Surratt. The frosh hasn't been fantastic this season, but he's at least shown some signs of competency at the quarterback spot. He is averaging 7.1 yards per pass attempt and is completing 58 percent of his passes, far better numbers than what LSU transfer Brandon Harris has been able to amass.
Things were so bad for the Heels that they turned the ball over to Nathan Elliott when Surratt went down against the Hurricanes.
Elliott, a sophomore who really never figured to play any meaningful football at UNC in his career, went 16-for-39 for 173 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh Free Picks
If Stanley has to start this game for the Tar Heels, there's no way they stick within three touchdowns of the Panthers with the way they're playing.
Pittsburgh is a team that has plenty to play for. Ben Dinucci is essentially trying to prove that he's the right choice as the starting quarterback of this team for the future, and the way the defense has come out and smothered the Dookies and Cavvies in successive games probably isn't good news for a third-string quarterback who shouldn't touch the field under much of any circumstance.
Go ahead and lay the lumber with confidence.
College Football ATS Pick: Pittsburgh -10.5 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Pittsburgh 37, North Carolina 13