Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina NCAAF Week 9 Betting Preview: Is the Under a Lock?

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Drake Maye #10 of the North Carolina Tar Heels warms up prior to their game against the Duke Blue Devils. Lance King/Getty Images/AFP.

The North Carolina Tar Heels have no defense, but the Pittsburgh Panthers do, so we’re putting the Under in Saturday’s NCAAF picks.

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Pittsburgh Panthers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Saturday, October 29, 2022 – 08:00 PM EDT at Kenan Memorial Stadium

Have we gone crazy here at the ranch? We’re looking at the Under for Saturday’s ACC tilt between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the North Carolina Tar Heels, even though these teams have the Over at a combined 9-5 heading into Week 9. And we’re looking at a chunky bet size for your college football picks, maybe even 3 units.

That’s the betting market for you. Casuals love the over, and they no doubt love North Carolina’s offense, too. However, that 65-point total on the NCAAF odds board at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) is just too damn high. We have to take the other side here. It’s a moral imperative.

Should We Trust the Analytics?

Trust, but verify. Jeff Sagarin at The USA Today does have these 2 teams combining for 75.46 points, which only makes us look crazier; then again, Sagarin’s projections for the total are often outside the range of the other models we’re looking at, most of which have this game finishing in the low 60s.

Modeling these games isn’t easy. There’s only so much data to look at in a short FBS season, with each team having played 7 games up to this point (the first handful against non-conference opponents).

Totals are especially tricky, which is why it’s harder to find good free-to-use projections than it is for the spread.

Weather conditions tend to escape these models, too. Summer has turned to fall, and the nastier it gets outside, the harder it is to score points. Saturday’s forecast isn’t too bad: partly cloudy skies and temperatures around 60 degrees at kick-off, but 5-10 mph crosswinds are also expected at Kenan Memorial Stadium, so that should help our cause somewhat.

With all that being said, there’s nothing wrong with taking things more cautiously and sticking with a single-unit wager here. Sharp handicapping isn’t about blindly trusting the models; you have to use your old-school skills, too, like reading the betting patterns and analyzing the matchup on the ground.

What Are the Betting Patterns?

Glad you asked. As I write this, the Total hasn’t been on the college football odds board long enough to generate any consensus reports at BMR, but again, the betting public loves the Over. They’re willing to pay a higher price to bet on the things they want to see happen, which are touchdowns. Lots of touchdowns.

This gives the Under a built-in advantage heading into just about any game on the calendar. Wizard of Odds ran the numbers and found the following probabilities for winning totals bets in college football:

  • Under: 50.32%
  • Over: 48.33%

That 50.32% hit rate is still lower than the 52.39% you need to make a profit at -110 vigorish, but it’s getting you about one-seventh of the way there. You can expand that edge by judiciously timing your bets, waiting until closer to kick-off for a better price as more public bettors come in and pound the Over.

Not that you should bet the Under blindly on every game, nor always wait until the last moment. But given these 2 particular teams and the way they’ve been performing, there’s a very good chance that the Pitt-UNC Total is already inflated as it is, and will be even higher on game day.

What’s the Matchup on the Ground?

Jekyll vs. Hyde. Here’s how each team stacks up on the newly updated F+ Ratings at Football Outsiders:

  • North Carolina: No. 18 offense, No. 116 defense.
  • Pittsburgh: No. 63 offense, No. 22 defense.

The ranked Tar Heels are obviously the side more casuals are paying attention to and the public money charts on the interwebs verify this. North Carolina indeed has all the earmarks of an Over team, thanks in large part to the return of head coach Mack Brown for a second stint at Chapel Hill.

Look at Pitt, though. Their offense has taken a step back following the departures of QB Kenny Pickett (now with the Pittsburgh Steelers) and WR Jordan Addison (now with USC). But the Panthers have remained strong on defense, and they’ll be one of the toughest tests that North Carolina’s star freshman QB Drake Maye has ever faced.

The Pick

It is a bit weird that Pitt has the Over at 5-2 thus far given their offense/defense split, but 2 of those Overs were by a half-point: in Week 3 versus Western Michigan, and in Week 5 versus Georgia Tech. Maybe we’re not so crazy after all. Judge for yourself, bet accordingly at the best sportsbooks, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.

NCAAF Pick: Under 65 (-110) at BetOnline

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Under 65 (–110)
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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.