Let’s try and put the incredible betting line for North Carolina’s trip to East Carolina on Saturday in perspective.
UNC’s loss at Cal last week was its 13th in the past 15 games against Division I-A opponents.
The Tar Heels will be missing 10 players (suspended for selling their sneakers), including their top defensive player (end Malik Carney) and most talented quarterback (Chazz Surratt).
The game is in Greenville, where the Tar Heels lost their most recent visit (in 2014) 70-41.
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Yet, the Tar Heels are favored ... by 17 points ... on the road! There can’t be a bigger indictment of the ECU program under Scottie Montgomery than that.
The Pirates have won four straight against UNC and N.C. State, but only one of those wins (2016 against the Wolfpack) came during Montgomery’s tenure.
The decision to replace Ruffin McNeill, after a 5-7 season in 2015, continues to look stranger and stranger with each head-scratching loss. ECU has a 3-19 record since that 33-30 home win over the Wolfpack on Sept. 10, 2016 (while N.C. State is 16-9). Two of ECU’s wins are against an equally inept Connecticut program and the other was against a BYU team that finished 4-9 in 2017.
Montgomery, in his third season after a long stint as a Duke assistant, is clinging to his job after a 28-23 home loss to North Carolina A&T in the opener.
UNC coach Larry Fedora is on more solid footing than Montgomery (let’s be honest, it’s nearly impossible not to be) but another loss in Greenville would be problematic, to say the least, for the seventh-year UNC coach.
With a visit from Central Florida next week and then a key swing game with Pittsburgh on Sept. 22, the Tar Heels desperately need a win here for their mental health and bowl hopes.
According to Las Vegas, it will be a walk. The numbers usually don’t lie but that one is almost too good to be true for UNC. Or Vegas truly knows all. Either way, the most entertaining game of Week 2 is in Greenville. N.C. State hosts Georgia State, Duke goes to Northwestern and Wake Forest hosts Towson.
On to “The Only* ACC Power Rankings That Matter:”
Last game: vs. Furman (W, 48-7)
Next game: at Texas A&M (Saturday)
Dabo Swinney lost four of his first five games to Jimbo Fisher but has won the past three. Fisher left the ACC (and Florida State) but he can’t get away from Swinney.
2. Virginia Tech
Last game: at Florida State (W, 24-3)
Next game: vs. William & Mary (Saturday)
Easily the most impressive performance by an ACC team in Week 1 belonged to the reconfigured Hokies’ defense, which held the Seminoles to three points.
3. Boston College
Last game: vs. Massachusetts (W, 55-21)
Next game: vs. Holy Cross (Saturday)
Yeah, yeah, it was only UMass, but quarterback Anthony Brown threw for four touchdowns in his first game back from major knee surgery. If the Eagles can develop a consistent passing game, they’re going to be a tough out.
4. Georgia Tech
Last game: vs. Alcorn State (W, 41-0)
Next game: at South Florida (Saturday)
South Florida had one of the better run defenses in the country last year. Interesting test for Paul Johnson’s crew, which racked up 439 rushing yards in the opener.
Last game: vs. LSU (L, 33-17)
Next game: vs. Savannah State (Saturday)
Miami wasn’t nearly as good as its 10-0 record suggested last season. In an odd way, getting the loss out of the way early might be beneficial in the long run.
6. N.C. State
Last game: vs. James Madison (W, 24-13)
Next game: vs. Georgia State (Saturday)
As Dave Doeren said after the JMU win, N.C. State has an NFL quarterback (sixth-year senior Ryan Finley threw for 309 yards in the opener). That’s a great luxury in the muddled pack of 13 teams behind Clemson.
Last game: vs. Army (W, 34-14)
Next game: at Northwestern (Saturday)
Duke watching Miami on Sunday: “Maybe we can win the Coastal?”
Duke watching Virginia Tech on Monday: “Eh, Charlotte in December is overrated.”
8. Wake Forest
Last game: at Tulane (W, 23-17, OT)
Next game: vs. Towson (Saturday)
The most impressive individual performance of Week 1 goes to Sam Hartman (378 yards). The Wake frosh has the kind of poise you can’t teach.
Last game: at Western Michigan (W, 55-42)
Next game: vs. Wagner (Saturday)
It took a half but the 2017 Syracuse defense showed up. That’s not good for the Orange. This team has so much ’08 N.C. State in them (can beat anyone if the quarterback is healthy, can lose to anyone if he’s not), it’s scary.
10. Florida State
Last game: vs. Virginia Tech (L, 24-3)
Next game: vs. Samford (Saturday)
The Noles’ offensive line didn’t magically get better with a new coach. Weird. All those NFL dudes they used to have on their defensive front aren’t walking through the door, either.
Last game: vs. Alabama (L, 51-14)
Next game: vs. Indiana State (Saturday)
Alabama can make anybody look bad but I was actually impressed with new quarterback Puma Pass (252 yards) in his debut.
Last game: vs. Albany (W, 33-7)
Next game: vs. Penn State (Saturday)
Pitt’s next three nonconference games: Penn State, UCF and Notre Dame. Hard pass.
Last game: vs. Richmond (W, 42-13)
Next game: Saturday, at Indiana
New quarterback Bryce Perkins was excellent (185 passing yards, 108 rushing yards) in his UVA debut. Maybe Bronco Mendenhall was pulling the old okeydoke on the UVA Board of Visitors this summer when he said the Hoos only had 27 “ACC-caliber” players?
Last game: at Cal (L, 24-17)
Next game: at ECU (Saturday)
Brutal start for Nathan Elliott, with three interceptions in the first half. If he can’t get right against ECU’s porous defense, Fedora will have to go back to the drawing board.