Free NCAAF Pick: UNC vs. East Carolina

State bragging rights will be on the line this Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium when the ACC’s North Carolina Tar Heels tangle with the AAC’s East Carolina Pirates. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. (ET), and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.

North Carolina comes into this matchup 2-0 straight up after posting wins over Liberty and San Diego State, but it failed to cover against the spread, according to betting trends, in either game as a double-digit favorite at home. The Tar Heels now have to go on the road where they are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games away from home.

The Pirates followed up a tough 33-23 loss to South Carolina as 14-point road underdogs in Week 2 with a stellar performance in this past Saturday’s 28-21 victory over then-No. 17 Virginia Tech as 9.5-point underdogs on the road to capture the betting public’s full attention. East Carolina is now 7-1 against the spread in their last eight games.

North Carolina at East Carolina Betting Storylines

North Carolina came into the new season ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. While it has won both of its games by a combined 31 points, its stay in the rankings did not last long. Part of the reason is a defense that allowed 29 points to Division IAA Liberty and 27 points in a tight four-point victory against San Diego State.

The offense has done its part with a total of 87 points so far behind a balanced attack between the pass and the run. Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams has thrown for 424 yards and four touchdowns in his first two games while completing 67.2 percent of his 58 passes. However, his biggest contribution has been on the ground, with 115 yards and two scores on 18 rushing attempts. North Carolina has the offensive firepower to stand toe-to-toe with the Pirates as long as its defense can get off the field.

East Carolina came over to the AAC this season after an extended stint in Conference USA, and it has immediately positioned itself as one of the top teams in the conference following its close call against the Gamecocks and its upset of Virginia Tech. A victory this Saturday could put the Pirates in position to possibly crack the Top 25 if enough higher-ranked teams lose.

They have done a great job getting out of the gate quickly, and the key to last Saturday’s upset was a 21-point first quarter that paced the win. Quarterback Shane Carden continues to impress with 1,031 yards passing in his first three games. He has thrown seven scoring strikes while completing 63.3 percent of throws. Justin Hardy has been on the receiving end of 23 balls for 267 yards, but Cam Worthy is the deep threat with an average of 27.5 yards a catch.

North Carolina at East Carolina Betting Odds and Trends

Pointspread: East Carolina -3

Total Line: OFF

According to betting trends, the Tar Heels are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games but just 6-13 ATS in their last 19 games following a SU win. The total has stayed “under” in 10 of their last 14 games overall.

The Pirates are a perfect 5-0 ATS in their last five home games and 4-0 ATS in their last four games against a team from the ACC. The total has stayed under in five of their last seven games against the ACC.

Head-to-head in this in-state rivalry, the favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings, and the total has stayed under in three of the last four games.

College Football Picks: North Carolina at East Carolina Betting Predictions

I went against the Pirates last week, but I am not going to make that mistake again. This team is solid on both sides of the ball and highly motivated to keep knocking off teams from the ACC. They hammered North Carolina 55-21 last season as 12.5-point road underdogs. While the Tar Heels may have revenge on their minds, they are walking into a very difficult situation to actually get a win. Lay the three points and stick with East Carolina to make in two in a row over its rivals. 

Take: # 332 East Carolina (-3) over North Carolina – 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20

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