UNC – Illinois
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Spread: UNC -7.5
M/L: UNC -310, ILL +255
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
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NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
North Carolina finished 11-3 last season on the heels of Marquise Williams’ final days as a collegiate player. Williams and the Tar Heels averaged 40.7 points per game and 486.9 yards per game in 2015, good for No. 9 and No. 18 in the NCAA, respectively.
It also began the season with a loss to the then-No. 18 Georgia Bulldogs.
Elijah Hood was All-ACC at running back last season. At WR, UNC returns Bug Howard, Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer—that is a trio as good as any in the ACC, including Florida State.
Hood rushed for 72 yards on 10 attempts in Week 1, including a long run of 32 yards. Switzer had seven catches to lead UNC for a total of 52 yards, including a 23 yard catch. Hood caught six passes for 28 yards and the Tar Heels managed 24 team receptions for 156 yards.
Tar Heel QB Mitch Trubisky threw 24 of 40 for 156 yards and no TDs nor interceptions, a quarterback rating of just 39.5. He rushed three times for seven yards, but did have an easy trot into the end zone for one of the Tar Heels’ two rushing TDs. TJ Logan rushed six times for 80 yards and the other TD. He also returned five kicks for an average of 34 yards per, including a 95 yard TD return. Switzer returned two punts for 10 yards per punt.
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Defensively, the Tar Heels did not have an answer last week for Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who trounced the UNC defense for 222 yards on 32 carries. The Tar Heels did not defend the pass particularly well either, allowing Georgia to go 13 of 20 for 185 yards and a TD in the air.
ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI
The Illinois Fighting Illini finished 2015 with a 6-7 mark and failed to make Bowl play. The season ended with three straight losses to Ohio State, Minnesota and Northwestern. Illinois started the season 4-1 including a 14-13 victory over Nebraska in Week 5. Wes Lunt is still a quality NFL-caliber QB, and if Illinois can stay healthy it can hang with most Big Ten teams. But staying healthy has been an immense problem for Lovie Smith’s team.
Season ending injuries to Mikey Dudek and Dre Brown have put the kibosh on any sustained success Illinois could have had. Sophomore RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a big time player, and there is plenty of experience at WR and on the OL, too. Illinois averaged just 22.7 points and 372.7 yards per game last season, ranking No. 103 and No. 88 in the nation. That has to improve, after ranking No. 12 in the Big Ten last season.
The offense will be different with a new coaching staff and OC Garrick McGee will try to implement some new schemes to change things up in Champaign.
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Lunt will have less time to make decisions, but the OL is mediocre at best and has to do a better job protecting him. Lunt has too much talent for Illinois to average just 243.4 passing yards per game, a tally that ranked them No. 47 in the nation. If the OL can provide adequate protection, that figure rises and puts Illinois in the top-30 pass offenses this season.
Lunt started the season well, throwing 15 of 21 for 226 yards and three TDs against Murray in Illinois’ 52-3 rout of the Racers. Lunt rushed twice but lost 11 yards. Kendrick Roster rushed just four times for 118 yards and two TDs, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn got a lot of touches (17) but managed just 49 yards and a TD. The Fighting Illini rushed 40 times for 287 yards and four TDs, though.
Malik Turner caught three passes for 83 yards and two TDs and Desmond Cain had 37 receiving yards and a TD, as well. Illinois had 16 catches for 228 yards as a team, averaging 14.3 yards per attempt.
The returns were not good for Illinois last week, with Caleb Day managing just eight yards on the kick return and Darius Mosely managing just 6.7 yards per punt return on three attempts (though he did have a 22 yard return).
Chase McLaughlin hit a 48-yard field goal and all seven of his extra point attempts, while punter Ryan Frain averaged 43 yards per punt on four attempts with a long of 52-yards.
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