The Virginia Cavaliers and breakout quarterback Brennan Armstrong take on preseason Heisman candidate Sam Howell and the No. 21 North Carolina Tar Heels in a rivalry clash between Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. The game is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET this Saturday.
|Game: Virginia Cavaliers (2-0) at #21 North Carolina (1-1)
Location: Kenan Stadium
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Television: ACC Network
|Team||Point Spread||Moneyline||Over/Under||Team Total|
|UVA||+9 (-110)||+280||65 (-110)||–|
|#21 UNC||-9 (-110)||-340||65 (-110)||–|
UVA has won matchups with the Tar Heels in four consecutive seasons, including a thrilling 44-41 result on Halloween last year when UNC was ranked 15th in the nation. UVA has been lost in the shadows of in-state rival Virginia Tech over recent years, but they have been a continuous roadblock to a rapidly ascending Tar Heel squad.
The 2020 loss was no fault of Sam Howell, who lit up the Cavaliers for 443 yards and four touchdowns, though he is now without his top two rushers and top receiving threat from that game.
On the flip side, Brennan Armstrong was a modest 12/22 for 208 yards, though his three touchdowns and 210 team rushing yards proved decisive in the final outcome. With another year under his belt and increased availability of playmakers, it is fair to say that Armstrong is much closer to Howell’s capability this season than he was in the previous, making UVA’s prospect of winning even greater.
The Virginia Cavaliers
Next game: vs Wake Forest
UVA made a statement in the win Saturday, stomping Illinois 42-14 and improving to 2-0; the Cavs are averaging 42.5 points per game and look to be the biggest threat that they have been in decades.
Armstrong had a historic day in the victory over the Fighting Illini, notching a program-record 405 yards to go with five touchdowns and one interception; tight end Jelani Woods went over 100 yards and caught a touchdown, and the ground attack produced 133 yards on 33 carries.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’ defense recorded three sacks, six tackles for loss, and seven pass deflections, winning the battle at every level and gathering momentum ahead of their biggest game in the young season.
Wide receiver Lavel Davis is yet to return from a serious knee injury that he suffered last season, though his rehabilitation process has been going “better than expected.” There is no solid timetable yet, but as he goes through more drills in practice, the optimism around his return is growing greater.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Next game: vs Georgia Tech
North Carolina rebounded from a 17-10 loss on the road to a previously-unranked Virginia Tech squad — which is now ranked 15th — in its opening week, knocking off Georgia State 59-17 behind 456 total yards and five touchdowns (three passing and two rushing) from talisman and quarterback, Sam Howell. Prior to this contest, Howell’s career-high in rushing yards was 53 in his first collegiate game; his 104 last Saturday not only obliterated this mark but showed the development in his game from a pocket passer to a true improviser.
UNC amassed 607 yards of total offense and was dominant in their victory, even despite fumbling the ball two times and only getting one sack from the defense.
The Tar Heels have failed to show that they have more than one offensive dimension, but that one dimension is highly impressive.
All of the main players will be available for the Tar Heels in their homestand against UVA.
Betting on the Game
UNC is a nine-point favorite based on the college football odds heading into their matchup with the visiting Cavaliers; this total was bet up to 9.5 on two separate occasions making it a pretty volatile sports bet to make, though it has returned to the opening line.
UNC was pinned as a favorite to win the Coastal Division in the ACC but has not done enough to prove themselves as a worthy contender yet, losing their only battle with a formidable opponent in the Hokies. With Howell at QB, they will always be in with a chance to win a game, whether by coming from behind or dominating from the start; however, Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler has not taken over the running back position, and Howell’s receivers have not been able to consistently separate from man coverage.
“Obviously the shine’s off,” UNC coach Mack Brown said of the 10th-ranked Tar Heels. “The ratings mean nothing at this point. We were overrated tonight.”
UNC’s defense is talented but has also been uninspiring, accumulating two sacks and three pass deflections in two games; they have only allowed 34 total points (17 in each of their games), though they are devoid of playmakers and ballhawks that can single-handedly change the game.
On the other end of the field, the Cavaliers are becoming a “sexy” pick to move up the ladder in the ACC— they are not used to having expectations. They could paint a serious target on their backs if they do end up knocking off the Tar Heels, but for now, they are playing impressive football.
Armstrong is up to 744 yards and seven passing touchdowns in just two games and has quite clearly developed his game, made even easier by a tall, sure-handed group of pass-catchers around him. Like UNC, this team will only go as far as their star QB can carry them, but they are more likely to receive impactful outbursts from their defense than the home team is.
The best part of UVA’s defense is its linebacking corps, though their secondary is also very solid as well— not to discredit the D-line, which is serviceable, but the higher levels of the D tend to provide the most energizing plays.
At -340 on the moneyline, UNC is a clear favorite based on likely scores and odds; UVA’s +280 could be influenced by the fact that they are on the road but still gives them tremendous value regardless. This affair is the definition of a “trap game” for UNC, so the UVA moneyline could be an excellent hedge bet for a weekend of parlays.
With two high-octane QBs that thrive in playmaking and are willing to take chances, this game is likely to hit the over regardless of the line, which in this case is 65. These teams are averaging a combined 80.5 points per game this season, feeding even more into the over.
As if there needed to be any more evidence, the 2019 and 2020 matchups also hit the over. It is a serious gamble to bet unders when Heisman-worthy QBs are at play, so in lieu of a serious gut feeling, take the over.