Two teams that lost their starting quarterbacks to injury midway through the season will face off in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. The North Carolina Tar Heels may be playing in their home state, where they were 6-2 against the spread this year, but Cincinnati is no stranger to the bowl after defeating Duke 48-34 in last year’s Belk Bowl.
Point spread: Tar Heels opened as two-point favorites; the total was 56.5. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 38.3-32.0 Bearcats
Why North Carolina can cover the Belk Bowl spread
North Carolina finished the year at an even 6-6 after starting a dismal 1-5. Despite the less-than-impressive win-loss record, North Carolina played well, especially against top competition. The Tar Heels lost to No. 6 South Carolina, No. 10 Miami and No. 24 Duke by a combined 13 points.
After losing Bryn Renner to injury, dual-threat quarterback Marquise Williams has stepped up and played tremendously, throwing for 1,527 yards and 14 touchdowns. Williams’ go-to target, tight end Eric Ebron, is a matchup nightmare for any team and will hurt Cincinnati down the middle of the field.
UNC has been a moneymaker lately at 6-1 against the spread, a key factor in the Belk Bowl betting odds sitting in their favor as of mid-December.
Why Cincinnati can cover the Belk Bowl spread
The Bearcats are bowling for the sixth time in seven years and have won and covered the spread in their last two. After losing Munchie Legaux early in the season, senior quarterback Brendon Kay stepped in and helped Cincinnati finish No. 15 in the country in passing with 314 yards per game.
Kay finished the year with 22 touchdowns through the air and ranked in the top 20 in passer rating at 155.5. The difference that will win the game for Cincinnati is its defense. The Bearcats only allowed 19.5 points per game, compared to 25.1 by the Tar Heels.
North Carolina enters this game battle-tested, while Cincinnati cruised through a weak schedule to a 9-3 record. In fact, Cincinnati only faced two opponents with winning records all year. The Tar Heels enter this bowl with momentum and went 6-1 against the spread to end the season.
The talent disparity in this matchup is huge and North Carolina could run away with it. Getting the Tar Heels and only giving up a field goal is great value, especially considering it will basically be a home game for them. Marquise Williams will have a big day against the Bearcats’ overmatched secondary.
The computer is picking a high-scoring game, which would dovetail with the UNC bowl trend of playing OVER the total (4-1 past five bowl games).
- Cincinnati 3-7 ATS past 10 bowl games (won and covered past two)
- Bearcats won the 2013 Belk Bowl, 12-3 SU past 15 games overall
- OVER is 4-1 past five UNC bowl games
- UNC 6-1 ATS past seven games overall