UnfrBowl Mania concludes on Saturday night with the Orange Bowl, which pits the ACC’s North Carolina up against the SEC’s Texas A&M. North Carolina will look to end the 2020-21 campaign on a three-game winning streak, while Texas A&M will try to ease the sting of being left out of the College Football Playoff with a New Year’s Six bowl win. The betting odds in advance of the game pronounce Texas A&M a solid favorite.
- Opening Lines: Texas A&M -5; O/U 70.5
- Current ATS Line: Texas A&M -7.5
- Current Over/Under: 65.5
- Location: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami, FL
- Date: Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021
- Start Time: 8 p.m. EST
- Television: ESPN
- Last Meeting: North Carolina and Texas A&M have not faced each other in football dating back to 1995.
Mack Brown’s North Carolina team entered the 2020 season with the most hype and anticipation surrounding the football program in Chapel Hill for a long time. Unfortunately, poor defensive play cost UNC on more than one occasion this year. Despite quarterback Sam Howell’s sharp play, the Tar Heels dropped three games and fell short of the ACC Championship Game. For as much offensive success as North Carolina had, trying to overcome a defense that yielded over 28 points per game and struggled to force turnovers as consolation is easier said than done.
Now, the Tar Heels will face the challenge of overcoming a handful of Orange Bowl opt-outs on both sides of the ball. Most notably, running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, receiver Dyami Brown, and linebacker Chazz Surratt won’t suit up.
Texas A&M’s only loss this season came early in the year at the hands of an unbeaten Alabama squad. Many believed that Jimbo Fisher’s team deserved a College Football Playoff berth over Notre Dame and Ohio State. Instead, the Aggies will look to exploit a vulnerable North Carolina defense in the Orange Bowl. Kellen Mond has been steady all season. While his yardage totals don’t rival those from his sophomore and junior seasons, his 19:3 touchdown to interception ratio is by far the best of his collegiate career. With Isaiah Spiller being such a threat running the ball, the Aggies have had a balanced offensive attack this season.
Defensively, Texas A&M has improved dramatically from the beginning of the season to now. In the end, the Aggies ranked top-30 nationally by only allowing 21.1 points per game. While there are no new A&M opt-outs to report, the Aggies would love to get corner Myles Jones back from a foot injury that held him out of the team’s regular-season finale.
- North Carolina 2020 Betting Trends: 5-6 ATS; 6-5 to the Over.
- Texas A&M 2020 Betting Trends: 5-4 ATS; 4-5 to the Over.
- North Carolina is 2-0-1 ATS in their last three bowl games against Group of 5 teams, but only 4-5 ATS against Power 5 schools.
- Texas A&M has gone 3-0 ATS in their last three bowl games.
- ACC teams are 6-1 ATS in their last seven Orange Bowl appearances.
*Line movement analysis based on the DonBest Las Vegas betting market ticker*
The betting market initially couldn’t decide which way to move the point spread for this Orange Bowl matchup. That’s changed as we’ve gotten closer to kickoff. Back-and-forth movement eventually settled out, yielding a line of Texas A&M -7.5, which is decisively higher than the opening spread of -5.
While the spread has risen upwards, the total has gone in the complete opposite direction. The opening over/under line of 70.5 took a steep drop right out of the gates and has continued to fall further throughout the past week to the current number of 65.5.
The combination of a season-long eye test of both teams, along with the Orange Bowl opt-outs for North Carolina, leads me to side with Texas A&M in this one. The Aggies have succeeded in bowl games recently, and the betting market is paying them respect by driving the spread upward. While the best of the number may be gone, I’m still on A&M ATS, but if you can find an even touchdown spread in the market before kickoff, that’s even better!
One other trend worth bringing to light is North Carolina’s recent struggles against strong defensive teams. In their last ten games against opponents allowing fewer than 22 PPG, the Tar Heels have gone just 2-8 ATS. UNC got shut out in the second half against a Notre Dame team that fits the trend this season. While this not only supports a play on Texas A&M, it also combines with the market movement to scare me off from betting the Over.
Pick: Texas A&M -7.5 (-104 at FanDuel Sportsbook)
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