The No. 25 Pittsburgh Panthers (7-2, 4-1 in ACC) host the North Carolina Tar Heels (5-4, 4-3) Saturday in a Week 11 conference showdown at Heinz Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET, and the game airs on ESPN.
North Carolina ended in-state rival No. 13 Wake Forest Demon Deacons’ undefeated season last week with a thrilling 58-55 victory as 2.5-point home favorites. The Tar Heels have alternated between winning and losing over the past seven games. North Carolina is 4-5 against the spread (ATS) and 6-3 Over/Under (O/U) with the nation’s 40th-toughest strength of schedule, according to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin.
Pittsburgh bounced back from an upset loss to the Miami Hurricanes on Oct. 30 to pummel the Duke Blue Devils, 54-29, as 21-point road favorites last weekend. Panthers QB Kenny Pickett leads the ACC in passer efficiency rating (172.8), passing TDs (29), and is second in completion rate (68.7%). Pittsburgh is 7-2 ATS and 7-2 O/U with the 77th-ranked strength of schedule, per Sagarin.
According to Pregame.com, this is a Pros vs. Joe’s game. Roughly three-fourths of the cash wagered is on Pittsburgh, but nearly 70% of bets placed are on North Carolina. As for the total, more than 90% of the handle is on the under, but the consensus line hasn’t moved much from the opener.
Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi took over the football program in 2015. Since then, the Panthers are 31-23-1 ATS in ACC games but just 10-18-1 ATS as a home favorite. Also, Pitt has covered its last four games against teams with a winning record.
North Carolina hired head coach Mack Brown at the beginning of 2019. Over that period, the Tar Heels are 12-13-1 ATS in conference play and 5-4 ATS against ranked teams, but just 1-3 ATS as a road underdog.
The Panthers beat the Tar Heels, 34-27, in overtime in their last meeting on Nov. 14, 2019. Pickett completed 25-of-41 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Tar Heels QB Sam Howell went 27-of-43 for 322 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
The key to stopping North Carolina’s offense is stifling its ground game. North Carolina has the second-best rushing predicted points added (PPA) and fourth-best rushing success rate.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, its defense ranks 11th in yards per rush allowed, 21st in rushing PPA, 26th in rushing success rate, and 22nd in line yards per snap. Furthermore, Pittsburgh’s defense will get off the field fast if it can slow down North Carolina’s rushing attack. The Panthers are 21st in opposing third-down conversion rate, eighth in passing down PPA, and 11th in passing down success rate.
On top of that, North Carolina’s defense cannot stop a nosebleed. The Tar Heels rank 90th in defensive PPA, 88th in defensive success rate, 104th in points per opportunity, and 115th in defensive Havoc rate. Pittsburgh is efficient on both sides of the ball, whereas North Carolina’s offense needs to put up 40-plus points to win.
It’s typically wise to follow the money in sports betting, especially when it’s flowing in the opposite direction as the public. So, it’s comforting to know the presumed “sharp” money is also rolling with Pittsburgh.
PICK: Pittsburgh (-110 on FanDuel)
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