Conference play inside the ACC gets started this weekend when the North Carolina Tar Heels play host to the Louisville Cardinals. Kickoff is set for noon EST on Saturday, September 9 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The game can be seen nationally on ESPN.
The Cardinals enter the game as 8-point road favorites. That number is up slightly after Louisville opened as 6-point favorites. Oddsmakers have set the over/under at 62.5 points. Click here for a full list of Week 2 betting odds and links to game previews.
Louisville vs North Carolina Vegas Preview & Game Prediction
The Cardinals began this season with huge expectations and are breathing a sigh of relief after escaping their season opener against Purdue with a win. The Boilermakers proved to be a far greater challenge for Louisville than most expected.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson stepped up and had a big game. Jackson threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns, while also racking up over 100 yards rushing. Louisville won the game 35-28, but it was far from convincing for a team that entered the game nearly four-touchdown favorites.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels came out of their opener even more disappointed than Louisville. North Carolina began the 4th quarter against Cal with a three-point lead but allowed two 4th quarter touchdowns and took a 35-30 loss.
On top of the loss, there’s now uncertainty over the quarterback position. LSU grad transfer Brandon Harris won the right to replace Mitch Trubisky during the preseason. But he struggled against Cal, throwing two interceptions, allowing redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt a chance to play. Head coach Larry Fedora is undecided who will start against Louisville, although it’s possible both will play.
Vegas Free NCAAF Betting Pick: Louisville -8
Quarterback problems aside, North Carolina’s defense may be a bigger concern heading into a matchup with Louisville. The Tar Heels did a nice job of stopping Cal on the ground. However, first-time starter Ross Bowers threw for over 350 yards and four touchdowns against the UNC defense. That doesn’t bode well for a defense that now faces a Heisman winning quarterback.
Based on the game against Purdue, Jackson may be even better than he was last year. He’s always a threat to run the ball, whether it’s a designed run or he’s improvising. But against Purdue, Jackson also showed the maturity to not always tuck and run when things break down. At times, he escaped the pocket and kept his head up in search of receivers down field. That addition to Jackson’s game makes him even scarier for opposing defenses.
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For North Carolina to hang around and keep this game competitive, the offense is going to have to move the ball. However, with Harris new to the program and Surratt just a redshirt freshman, neither was able to run Fedora’s offense with the same pace and precision that Trubisky and other North Carolina quarterbacks have been able to execute in the past.
Louisville’s defense is by no means elite, so don’t expect the Tar Heels to be shut down completely because they have some good playmakers. But the Cardinals were able to hold Purdue to 2.4 yards per rush and force four turnovers. That kind of performance puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback, which is what the Tar Heels would like to avoid at all costs.
Between Jackson’s brilliance and North Carolina’s question mark at quarterback, things aren’t looking good for the Tar Heels heading into this game. The Cardinals aren’t exactly flying high after Week 1 either. But Bobby Petrino will make a few adjustments and have Louisville looking much improved in Week 2. Meanwhile, Fedora needs more than a couple minor adjustments to get the Tar Heels on track. Even on the road, Louisville should win by double digits.