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North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Point Spread - Pick

North Carolina Tar Heels (1-8 SU, 2-7 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5 SU, 3-4-2 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date/Time: Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 7:30PM EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV: ESPN

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: UNC +9.5/PITT -9.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5

The North Carolina Tar Heels take on the Pittsburgh Panthers in ACC action from Heinz Field in week 11 Thursday action. North Carolina is coming off a brutal run of games, last facing top-ten team and unbeaten Miami, losing only 24-19. Still, it's been a rough season for the Tar Heels, with one lone win and just two covers on the season. Pittsburgh has won two straight and can get to .500 this week with a home win. In their last game, they scored a nice win in a 31-14 win over Virginia. Who can get the win and cover on Thursday? Both teams last played on October 28, getting a needed break heading into this matchup. Last season, North Carolina scored two touchdowns in the game's final 6 minutes to beat the Panthers by a point, 37-36. It's safe to say a whole lot has changed since that matchup.

The Panthers got off to a rough start to the season. After a win over the FCS' Youngstown State, they lost five of their next six games, with only a win over Rice breaking up a steady stream of losing. There were some tough opponents along the way, like Penn State, Oklahoma State, and NC State, but a team that was a good spoiler last season was absorbing losses in bunches, some by a really wide margin. They've shown a lot of character by emerging from that run of games intact enough to go on this little run. A road win at Duke and win over Virginia in their last game show it's not time to shovel dirt on the 2017 Pitt Panthers just yet.

Pittsburgh's offense has been showing more pep over the past couple weeks. Running back Darrin Hall has gone into overdrive with two huge performances in the last two games, including 111 yards and a score against Virginia. Qadree Ollison is still back there producing big runs. Quadree Henderson can make things happen on offense and also took a punt for a score in their last game. Sophomore quarterback Ben Dinucci isn't lighting the world on fire and has thrown just 4 touchdowns this season, but he has smoothly run this offense the last two weeks.

A big problem for Pittsburgh has been a defense that has potential, but also features the kinds of mistakes and indiscretions that come with extreme youth. There aren't any seniors starting on this unit, but youth gave way to effectiveness on the 28th in their win over Virginia. They got after the quarterback and registered three sacks with Shane Roy, Rashaad Weaver, and James Folston, Jr. getting after it. And when it got critical, they stepped up, stopping the Cavaliers on fourth down 4 times on the day. Saleem Brightwell picked off a pass. If these youngsters continue showing this level of upside, bowl-eligibility might not be out of the question for the Panthers—something that seemed inconceivable a few weeks ago.

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North Carolina's season has been rough. A 1-8 record is difficult to sugar-coat. But if looking for silver lining, they are at least still trying. Their only win is against Old Dominion and that's not very impressive for a program that had been making strides. They have lost 6 in a row, but for them to manage to even give unbeaten Miami a game shows they're not ready to lie down for teams thinking they have a sure win in-store when facing the Tar Heels. It was just 7-6 Miami heading into the second half and North Carolina was fairly resourceful. Sure, they have underachieved, even at it was roundly expected that they would recede after losing the bulk of their production on both sides of the ball. The offense hasn't been able to replace key playmakers and the defense has continued to be a liability, even more so this season. Not helping is that the UNC injury list is almost bigger than the active roster.

The North Carolina offense is averaging a smidge over 21 points a game, not nearly enough to hang in there in the ACC. Both the run-game and aerial-attack are pretty flat. They're down to their third choice at QB in Nathan Elliott, who has not been all that promising in his brief time behind center. He can run a little bit and might be a decent dual-threat prospect, but that will be down the line. Jordon Brown is their big dog right now at running back and he hasn't cracked 500 yards yet. Pelted by injuries, their best receiver right now is sophomore Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Young receiver Beau Corrales stepped up against Miami with two TD receptions.

The North Carolina defense is giving up an average of over 33 points a game. With an offense putting up 21 a game, it's not hard to see how that leads to a rough campaign. They are leaky both against the pass and run. Against Virginia and Miami, they showed more resistance, but those games sandwiched a 59-point output by Virginia Tech. Up-front, they get a decent pass-rush from DT Aaron Crawford and DE Malik Carney, but finding areas of optimism on this side of the ball isn't easy.

Pittsburgh has a nice chance to see some of their recent good work pay off here—at home against a 1-8 team with a chance to get to .500 after so much early-season adversity. Based on their recent results, one should expect the rest to have helped with a solid effort on Thursday at Heinz Field. North Carolina has shown, however, that they're at least trying to build something for next season. I see a good game from the Panthers, as they get the win at home.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Pittsburgh Panthers minus 9.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Tar Heels vs. Panthers game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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