North Carolina vs. Virginia NCAAF Week 10 Top Picks: Improved Virginia Defense to Limit Tar Heel Scoring

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Brennan Armstrong #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers throws a pass under pressure from Jahfari Harvey #12 of the Miami Hurricanes. Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images/AFP.

The best sportsbooks have released their NCAAF odds for this week’s college football action.

One game worth investing in is the one between ACC teams North Carolina and Virginia. North Carolina is 7-1 and currently ranked number 17 in the nation while Virginia, unranked, sits at 3-5.

This disparity in success motivates the fact that, as of Wednesday, North Carolina is favored over a touchdown, even though this game takes place in Virginia. The total sits at 59.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play both the spread and the total for this game at an Online Sports Betting Site.

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North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Virginia Cavaliers

Saturday, November 5, 2022 – 12:00 PM EDT at Scott Stadium

North Carolina's Offensive Line Woes

Since last year, especially, offensive line play has been a problem for North Carolina. Last season, injuries and instances of individual regression plagued the quality of North Carolina's offensive line.

The offseason saw turnover. Three offensive linemen left for the NFL, amounting to a meaningful loss of talent. Plus, the Tar Heels got a new offensive line coach: Jack Bicknell Jr., formerly of Louisville.

While the amount of turnover following a bad year may appear to offer a kind of basis for optimism, the loss of talent and the coaching change suggest that improvement will take time.

Still Struggling

Looking at an objective measurement of the current situation, the Tar Heels rank 85th nationally in limiting the rate at which they are sacked. The lack of pass protection has negatively influenced their offensive capacity in different games.

For example, quarterback Drake Maye suffered his worst game of the season, as measured by passer rating, in his team's 3-point win over Miami.

In that game, the Hurricanes amassed 5 sacks, indicating a link between their pass-rushing success and their ability to limit North Carolina's scoring output.

Virginia's Vastly Improved Pass Rush

North Carolina's issues with pass protection are meaningful because Virginia is well-built to exploit these issues with its strongly improved pass rush. Nationally, the Cavaliers rank 8th in the rate at which they accrue sacks.

Besides the relevant coaching changes over the offseason, they underwent significant changes in pass-rushing personnel, which explains their current success. During the offseason, multiple transfers joined Virginia, giving the Cavalier defensive line a boost in depth and ability.

For example, Kameron Butler was an All-MAC first-teamer last year after achieving 8 sacks. Moreover, Paul Akere was an All-Ivy League second-teamer last season. He had 5 sacks on the season.

These guys, and others, joined a unit already stocked with playmakers. Most notably, Aaron Faumui is the team's second-leading sack-getter and Chico Bennett Jr. is the first. Bennett leads the ACC in sacks per game. He, Faumui, and linebacker Nick Jackson rank top-15 in the ACC in sacks per game.

Virginia's Defensive Turnaround

Excluding overtime, the Hoos have allowed a combined total of 14 points in their past 2 games. Their defense shut down Georgia Tech and Miami's respective offenses.

While one may counter that neither opponent poses a strong offensive challenge, it's meaningful that nearly both teams mustered season lows in scoring against Virginia. Teams are suffering their worst offensive performances of the season when they face the Cavaliers' improved defense.

What the worst North Carolina offensive performance of the season would look like is a scoring total in the mid-20s, leaving plenty of room for Virginia to cover the spread against what is one of the nation's lowest-ranked defenses.

Playing the Total

It follows from Virginia's positive chances of covering the spread that the "Under" is the best bet on the total. Virginia is not going to cover the spread in a shootout, but it will cover the spread by leaning on its pass rush to help continue its strong run of defensive success and limit the Tar Heel offensive output.

While regressed Cavalier quarterback Brennan Armstrong has obviously had his issues making decisions and hitting his targets, if he is fit to play on Saturday, then he can make use of his characteristic mobility against a Tar Heel defense that allowed Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, for example, to run for a season-high 130 yards.

Wide receiver is Virginia's strongest position group on offense, featuring a level of talent obscured by issues with depth.

Between Armstrong's 250-300 passing yards, his running, and his help from wide receivers who amassed 990 or more yards last year, Virginia will score enough to cover the spread in a low-scoring contest.

Final Picks

For the above reasons​, I recommend playing Virginia and the "Under" with your NCAAF picks.

NCAAF Pick: Virginia +7.5 (-113) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Virginia +7.5 (-113)
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NCAAF Pick: Under 59 (-107) at BetOnline

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Under 59 (-107)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.