Every week the Blue Zone gives you our can't-lose prop bets for the upcoming football game:
Duke (+20) at North Carolina
North Carolina entered the season as a top-ten team in the AP Poll with high hopes. However, those aspirations have been tempered after two early losses to unranked opponents. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech both took down the seemingly far more talented Tar Heels. And while he has played well, all the early praise for junior passer Sam Howell as potentially the best quarterback in college football has so far seemed a little preemptive.
The Tar Heels are 2-2 against the spread this season. All this pessimism surrounding North Carolina comes not from a place of Blue Devil bias, but instead realistic expectations for the score. Duke enters this week following an imperfect win against potentially its easiest opponent all year in Kansas. Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg and running back Mataeo Durant, however, showed that despite the team's flaws, they and the offense can come up big when it counts.
That said, Duke’s chances of actually winning this week are slim to none, and look especially unappealing at only +700 on the moneyline. Duke will find themselves in a hostile environment against a team that positionally is better in nearly every category. If you can find a moneyline price closer to +1000, however, there might lie real value.
Regardless, yielding 20 points at -120 with Duke seems to be a fair payout. The spread has also been steadily trending in UNC’s favor over the past week, so one might find even better odds right before kickoff. However, so long as Duke's lackluster defense takes the field, I'd slightly quell the enthusiasm for the Blue Devils in this week's matchup.
Pick: Duke +20 (-120)
Over/Under 72.5 points
Defensively, both teams seem to be in a state of utter disarray. Duke allowed the Jayhawks to rack up more points than in any of their other three contests, even if part of the blame rests with the offense and their early inability to hang onto the football. For all the shade I’ve thrown in Howell’s direction, expect a big outing from the quarterback against a Duke defense that will likely be in for a rude awakening.
Had last week’s collapse against Georgia Tech never happened, the under would surely warrant more consideration, as the Tar Heels seem to have a strong defense on paper. However, last week was surely nightmare fuel for North Carolina defensive coordinators Jay Bateman and Tommy Thigpen as Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims burned their defense both on the ground and in the air. Durant and Holmberg will likely keep the ball rolling against a reeling opposing defense.
Standard -110 odds are as good as one can hope to get for what looks to be a high-scoring affair. However, the total has been trending upward, rising from the opening number of 70.5 to 72.5. The lower the total the better, but regardless, life’s too short to bet the under.
Pick: Over 72.5
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Team to score first: Duke +155
First score props are typically a toss-up unless Alabama, Georgia, or another top program is involved. North Carolina is certainly not one of those top programs. At +155, a coin toss could be the decider between a payday and a loss.
Duke has opened the scoring in the past two contests, while the Tar Heels have done the same in their past three outings. North Carolina does come in as the heavy favorite, but if Duke gets the ball to start the game, throw all the analytics out the window. For one drive, one play at a time, the Blue Devils could muster at least a field goal. I'd argue this is more akin to a coin toss, especially given the high powered offenses on both sides, so +155 is simply too good to pass up.
Pick: Duke to score first (+155)