North Carolina vs. West Virginia kicks off this Wednesday (12/27/23) at 5:30pm EST in Charlotte North Carolina as the host site for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Get North Carolina vs. West Virginia predictions and best bets below as our best bet is on West Virginia -6.5 as they get the benefit of playing UNC without Drake Maye.
North Carolina Vs. West Virginia Prediction
As the final week of bowl season kicks off and the quality of teams increases, opt outs and transfers come at a more routine rate. That makes handicapping the games tougher, but it doesn’t mean that they are without value as books struggle to keep up. As previously mentioned, UNC will be without Drake Maye as well as star linebacker Cedric Gray and stud wide receiver Tez Walker. For a more comprehensive list of opt outs, transfers, and injuries, you can read it all here.
Not only is UNC without their three most productive players, but their depth also takes a serious hit on both sides of the ball as the list of transfers and opt outs keeps on growing. That plays towards West Virginia’s favor, a team who has been relatively unscathed by the transfer portal as of writing. Especially at the most important position in football as quarterback Garrett Greene is expected to give it a go. In terms of WVU’s starters, only star center Zach Frazier will miss the game as he is getting surgery before the NFL Draft.
That makes West Virginia’s metrics more concrete heading into the game, most likely playing what the numbers indicate. The Mountaineers will have a massive advantage when on offense backed behind their continuity, being in a position to move the ball with ease against a weak Tar Heel defense. After a hot start to the year, UNC’s defense fell hard back down to reality as they ended the year ranked 69th in Def Success Rate, 62nd in Def Explosiveness, and 79th in Havoc.
The advantage on offense will come in the form of the fifth heaviest Rush Play Rate in the nation as WVU ranks 24th in Rush Success Rate, 22nd in Rush Explosiveness, and 12th in Rush PPA. The Tar Heels front seven already ranks an abysmal 71st in Def Rush Success Rate and 91st in PPA, now having to try and stop a dominant run unit with their backups. West Virginia potentially being without running back CJ Donaldson Jr hurts, but backup Jahiem White has been even more productive on far fewer carries.
As for the West Virginia defense, they have also been a severely underwhelming unit like their counterpart UNC. The beauty for West Virginia is that they get the benefit of playing UNC without Drake Maye which drastically shifts the identity of their offense. With UNC most likely going more conservative with Conner Harrell under center, expect WVU to stack the box at a heavier rate to help mask their poor run stopping metrics.
North Carolina Vs. West Virginia Prediction: West Virginia -6.5
North Carolina Vs. West Virginia Best Odds
Oddsmakers gave themselves some cushion regarding the status of Drake Maye, leaning towards him opting out by opening the Tar Heels as a +3.5 underdog. Once Maye confirmed that he would opt out for the NFL Draft, oddsmakers reopened the Tar Heels as a +6.5 underdog. Bettors have yet to crack through the key number of +7, keeping the number the same as of writing.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a very quick pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 55.5. Bettors believe points will come at a slightly slower pace as they have bet the under down to 54.5 in some shops. The line movement makes sense as UNC’s offense is poised to struggle, yet WVU’s continuity on offense may make up for it.
North Carolina Vs. West Virginia Key Matchups
Can Garret Greene find production through the air against the UNC secondary?
Garrett Greene Vs. North Carolina Secondary
West Virginia calls the pass play at one of the lowest rates in the nation and for good measure. That area of the offense has been a struggle for the Mountaineers all season long, finishing the year ranked 62nd in Pass Success Rate and 61st in Pass PPA.
On a do-or-die 4th down, West Virginia pulls out a miracle
Garrett Greene to Hudson Clement for a 50-yard touchdown
WVU erases an 11-point 4th quarter deficit pic.twitter.com/hCxczjYaVE
— Steve Helwick (@s_helwick) October 13, 2023
Luckily for Garrett Greene, he gets the benefit of throwing against a UNC secondary that ranks 73rd in Def Pass Success Rate, 76th in Def Pass PPA, and 69th in Def Pass Explosiveness. With their ground game in a position to dominate, UNC may be forced to stack the box which opens up even wider passing lanes for Greene to exploit.