This Thursday the No. 16 ranked Miami Hurricanes (3-1) will host the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-2). This ACC Coastal clash is set for 8:00 EST at Hard Rock Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.

Taking a look at the Week 5 college football odds, the books opened the Hurricanes as a 19.5-point favorite, but it’s been bet down slightly, as Miami is currently a 18.5-point favorite. The total for this matchup is 57 points.

Miami vs North Carolina Vegas Odds & Game Preview

The Tar Heels avoided their first 0-3 start since 2003 with a thrilling 38-35 win at home over Pittsburgh as a 3-point dog. UNC went into the half trailing the Panthers 28-21, but by the start of the 4th quarter they had built a 38-28 lead and held on for the win. It was a much-needed big day for the offense, which had failed to eclipse 20 points in their first two games.

Miami defeated FIU 31-17 at home, but failed to cover as a 26-point favorite. It was a painful loss for Hurricane backers, as Miami led 28-0 at the half and were up 31-0 going into the 4th quarter. The big story in the win was N’Kosi Perry replacing Malik Rosier on the third drive. Perry didn’t disappoint, he completed each of his first 10 passes and wound up throwing for 224 yards and 3 scores, while also rushing for 32 yards on 9 attempts. It will be interesting to see what signal caller head coach Mark Richt goes with on Thursday.

Miami won last year’s meeting 24-19 on the road, but it was the Tar Heels who cashed the winning ticket as 21-point underdogs. The Hurricanes win did snap a short 2-game win streak for UNC, who has now covered in each of the last 3 meetings.

College Football Free Pick Against the Spread: Miami -18.5

I don’t have a great feel for this one, but my early lean would be to lay the points with the Hurricanes. A lot of people jumped off the Miami bandwagon after that ugly 33-17 loss to LSU in Week 1 and I think a lot of those¬†same people will be quick to grab the points with a Tar Heels team that is coming off a solid win over Pitt. Not to mention UNC is getting 7 players back from suspension. Getting guys back is great, but most of those players returning won’t impact this game.¬†

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It turns out that LSU is way better than anyone anticipated and you have to wonder if Miami didn’t go into that opener a little over-confident against a team they thought they would handle. The thing to keep in mind is that Miami came into this season thinking playoffs and with that loss they can’t afford to overlook another opponent. I certainly don’t see them looking past the Tar Heels given how tough UNC has played them of late. Not to mention this being their home opener and the excitement and energy that comes with playing at home in a nationally televised game. This is Miami’s shot to make a statement and get back some of the respect they lost in the defeat to LSU.

I know we don’t know for sure, but I would be shocked if Perry wasn’t the starter for this game. It’s not like he came in and just played a series to get some reps. He replaced Rosier for good in that game and with the offense was clearly better with him on the field. Anytime there’s a big change like this at a key position, especially quarterback, it can light a fire under the entire team and I expect Hard Rock Stadium to be electric.

You also have to look at the defense of North Carolina. The Tar Heels just aren’t very good on that side of the ball. They held Cal to just 24 points, but allowed 41 points and over 500 yards to East Carolina and another 35 points and 400+ yards to Pitt. Miami just has too much talent and speed for UNC to keep them from scoring early and often.

The key here for me, is I don’t see the Tar Heels offense being able to keep pace with what their defense allows. I know they looked good on that side of the ball last week, but this is still the same team that scored a mere 17 points at Cal and 19 at East Carolina. Miami’s defense loves to show off and they are going to be chomping at the bit for this prime time matchup.

Note that when the Hurricanes score a minimum of 28 points they have gone 14-3 ATS over the last 3 seasons and won these contests by an average of 28.3 ppg (43.4-15.1). Give me Miami -18.5.