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Thursday Football News and Notes

Thursday Football News and Notes


UNC vs. Rutgers

Here is what I have on this game. Note, that this is not your father's UNC football team. This Carolina team has come some ways since Butch Davis took over. Yes, they only won 4 games last year, but the 2 million a year coach has looked to improve this team. He has brought some quality talent to this squad in the form of Yates and a running back that rushed for over a 100 yards last ballgame. Remmeber, Davis is the Coach who was once running the show at the Browns organization in the NFL and prior to that at the Hurricanes in Miami. He left the year before the Canes won the National Championship and many believe it was his coaching and prowess that created the dominance that Coker was fortunate to receive on a silver platter. I believe this is true as see what Coker did to the program under his leadership as he drove a great program to the ground with terrible oversight. Having said this, Davis beat Miami at North Carolina last year as that made the boosters and fans thrilled for a big win. He has been working hard to renew the image of UNC Football as a place where students can expect to have a football team that is not terrible and can be competitive. This is still a Basketball school, but Davis has worked to try to re-establish a winning tradition and in about 4 years I think he competes for an ACC Title to be frank. I think these 2 teams might be heading in opposite trends, for this year at least, in that UNC returns a lot of veteran players, to the tune of 10 returners on offense (put up 35 points last week, granted McNeese State) and 8 returners on defense. This Scarlet Knights offense struggled without Ray Rice as they only put up 7 points against Fresno State. Having said that, they should have far more success scoring against UNC today, but UNC is no push over either. This shows that despite 63% favoring Rutgers at home, with the fan-fare and backing they received last year and the fact that UNC football is under the radar, the line has actually gone in favor of UNC the other way as there is quality value in the Tarheels today. These 2 teams met in 06' and UNC only lost that ballgame by 5 points. Don't forget, Mike Teel only completed 50% of his passes roughly last time and threw for 2 picks and 0 td's. I wouldn't be surprised at an over or an UNC outright win here.

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Re: Thursday Football News and Notes

UNC hopes extra practice pays off at Rutgers

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -North Carolina found a way to avoid the poor performances that plagued the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference over the weekend: The Tar Heels didn't play.

While its league rivals were losing to Middle Tennessee State or struggling with championship-subdivision teams, North Carolina was back on the practice field taking care of its own pesky opening-week struggles while preparing for this week's visit to Rutgers.

''We've got a chance to make corrections from the mistakes in the (first) game as opposed to those errors - you can fix some of them, but you've got to move on to the next opponent'' during a normal week, safety Trimane Goddard said Monday. ''You had time to make those adjustments and make sure everybody's on the right page.''

There were plenty of necessary corrections to be made after a tougher-than-expected opening win against McNeese State two weeks ago, when the step-slow Tar Heels needed a third-quarter rally to take the lead for good against the Championship Subdivision Cowboys.

While the rest of the ACC was back in action last weekend, coach Butch Davis had some extra time to point out the mistakes made by a roster full of young players who perhaps were burdened by the heightened expectations to contend in the up-for-grabs Coastal Division.

As a result, just a couple of weeks after the end of preseason camp, the Tar Heels (1-0) once again found themselves going back to basics.

''If you've got an experienced, veteran football team, if you've got a lot of guys, returning starters that have been in your program two or three years and there's not a lot of fundamental things that you need to fix, it's probably to your advantage to get off to a fast start and play two, three, four weeks and then maybe get an open date,'' Davis said.

''For a young team like us, I think it was somewhat fortunate that we did have an open date for a multitude of reasons.''

Among the points of emphasis were making sure the defensive backs understood their coverages and ''the small things,'' such as the concepts of route-running, Goddard said. North Carolina allowed McNeese State to amass 391 total yards and hold the ball for more than 35 minutes.

''We were trying to be as prudent as possible in how we utilized this extra time, and a certain element of it was fixing the mistakes of the first ball game,'' he said. ''Things the kids were confused on, things they didn't understand. ... The next part of it is working on your own football team, just trying to get better now that they played a game. They understand game speed, they understand some of the schemes of how (opponents) try to attack you.''

Ultimately, the nine freshmen and sophomores listed as starters on North Carolina's depth chart gained an appreciation for how fast the game is played and the other things that can't be replicated on the practice field. Now, Davis hopes that performance becomes one of the building blocks for the foundation of a program he is, in his second season, reviving.

''The McNeese game is one of those layers of building your program,'' Davis said. ''There's so much that can be derived for a football team from good experiences as well as bad experiences ... and everybody that's still here can remember it, relate to those types of things, whether it was a fast start or a slow start, whether it was sideline adjustments or whether it's the plays that turn games around on special teams, offense, defense.

''Until you go through some of those scenarios, you can talk about it until you're blue in the face,'' he added. ''You can show all the video you want to, but it doesn't really mean something until the guys are actually involved in those scenarios.''

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Re: Thursday Football News and Notes

What bettors need to know: UNC at Rutgers

2006 Redux

These teams last met in the 2006 opener with UNC losing at home 21-16 as a 4-point favorite. The Tar Heels came up empty on two drives deep in Rutgers territory late in the game.

The 2006 Rutgers team was the best yet under coach Greg Schiano. The team earned their first ever top-10 ranking and Schiano garnered national coach of the year honors.

On the other extreme, 2006 would prove to be the last year for then-coach John Bunting at NC. Butch Davis took over for Bunting last season.

Cupcake City

Last year’s Rutgers squad finished up 8-5 with a bowl win over Miami-OH. The Scarlet Knights had only one win against quality competition (USF by 3 at home). The remainder of their wins came against the likes of Buffalo, Navy, Norfolk St., Syracuse, Army, and Pittsburgh. Rutgers was blown out at home by West Virginia and lost to Maryland (as an 18.5 pt. fave), Cincinnati, UConn and Louisville. 

Carolina on Their Mind

Somewhat remarkably, the Tar Heels have not won a game outside of North Carolina since 2002. In that five-year span they have won only five road games (at East Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State, and Duke twice).

Butch Davis

Despite his struggles in the NFL, UNC’s Butch Davis is a frontline college coach.

Davis has experience rebuilding programs, having taken over a Miami team that was on probation and in disarray in 1995. Davis went on to post four bowl victories, with his
11-1 Hurricane squad finishing No. 2 in the country in his final season of 2000. Despite losing scholarships to NCAA penalties during his tenure, it was Davis’ recruits that formed the nucleus of the undefeated national championship team of 2001.

Whether Davis can take the Tar Heel program that far remains to be seen. However, he is clearly moving in the right direction. His 2007 recruiting class was ranked by many in the top-10 nationally. Last season, his first at NC, the Heels won only four games, but had several close losses against quality foes (by three at East Carolina, two vs. Virginia, seven at Virginia Tech, six vs. South Carolina, four at NC St., and two at Georgia Tech).

The Heels return 18 starters. Many believe that the team is ready for a breakthrough.

No More Rice

Schiano’s squad returns 15 starters, including Sr. third-year starter Mike Teel at QB. The early departure of RB Ray Rice to the NFL leaves a gaping hole in the offense. Rice was a centerpiece of the Rutgers attack for the last three years and there are no recruits of his caliber ready to step in.

Opening Day Struggles: Something’s Gotta Give

Despite high expectations for both teams, neither Rutgers nor NC was particularly impressive in their season openers.

Coming in as 3 1/2-point chalk, Rutgers laid an egg at home 10 days ago, losing outright 24-7 to Fresno State. While the Knights did move the ball at times, they struggled to run the ball (3.5 yds per carry), were sloppy in the passing game (two picks) and had trouble finishing drives. The team had seven possessions that started in Fresno territory and scored on none of them.

While NC did come out with a win in their opener two weeks ago, the 35-27 final score was too close for comfort at home against I-AA McNeese State. McNeese outgained the Heels, had more first downs and led significantly in time of possession. One caveat: the game was suspended for two hours due to inclement weather with NC up 14-0. By the time the game resumed much of the crowd had left, thus reducing the home-field advantage.

If there is any edge that can be deciphered from these performances, it may come in the area of Special Teams. NC returner Brandon Tate saved the day with an 82-yard punt return and another 56-yard kick return. Rutgers freshman kicker San San Te, meanwhile, missed two field goals and the team had a key return called back for a block in the back. 

Line Move reports that the line opened at 5.5 at 6:43 p.m. on September 7. Five minutes later the line was at 5. Four hours later it was down to 4. Thus, the early action appears to have come in decisively on the NC side. 

The over/under opened at 44 at a limited number of books.

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Re: Thursday Football News and Notes

UNC-Rutgers betting preview

Rutgers is trying to avoid its second-straight, nationally televised home loss when they play North Carolina on Thursday.

Neither team looked impressive in their opening games. Rutgers, as 4-point favorites against now #21 Fresno State and got waxed 24-7. UNC neaked by McNeese 35-27, in a game in which McNeese out gained them, beat them 24-13 in 1st downs, and had a time of possession advantage of 36 minutes to 24. There was no line on this game because McNeese is not an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) team, but part of the FCS(Football Championship Subdivision).

North Carolina was one of my surprise teams this year, as Butch Davis now has some of his recruits playing significant minutes. But Sporting News freshman of the year T.J. Yates is going to have to do a better job against Rutgers than he did against McNeese.

I think people are looking at these recent performances when they are handicapping this matchup. We are very heavy on Rutgers right now. People are betting them at a 68% clip. We opened this game -4 1/2 and only briefly stayed at that number. Minus 5 doesn’t seem to phase the public and it appears we will need the Tar Heels for a good amount.

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Re: Thursday Football News and Notes

North Carolina at Rutgers
By Christian Alexander

North Carolina (1-0, 0-0 ACC) at Rutgers (0-1, 0-0 Big East)
Thursday, September 11 7:30 PM ESPN
Rutgers Stadium (Natural Grass)

Almost all head coaches work their way up the ladder by primarily coaching one side of the ball. Along the way, some coaches develop the reputation of being a “guru” or “genius” at either offense or defense. I always find it interesting when these coaches become head coaches and then their teams end up struggling at their supposed specialty.
Marvin Lewis is a perfect example. For years he was a genius as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, a team that ultimately won a Super Bowl because of their defense. That reputation led him to landing the head job with the Cincinnati Bengals. However, since that point Cincy has been one of the weaker teams in the NFL on defense.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Lewis has done a decent job with the Bengals but the thing is, when you have talented players – players like Lewis had with LB Ray Lewis – it’s easy to look like a genius. Which brings me to my point.

For years Steve Spurrier has been lauded as one of the most talented offensive minds in the game. Yet after watching his Gamecocks for the first two Thursday nights you certainly wouldn’t know it. First, there was his very questionable decision to start Tommy Beecher at QB. That plan had to be abandoned after Beecher threw four picks against NC State.

Then last week South Carolina couldn’t get anything going against a scrappy but typically average Vandy team, losing outright as 10 point favorites. That moved yours truly to 2-0 this season on Thursday nights and put Spurrier in a tough position as he looks to welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to Columbia this Saturday.

The bottom line is the vast majority of coaches, even the so-called gurus, need talent to succeed. Spurrier had loads of it at Florida, not so much these days in Columbia. The elite, great coaches are the ones that can take a collection of average-to-good players and mold them into a championship team. Those coaches are obviously very rare.

This Thursday night we’ll get a chance to look at a couple of coaches that have certainly coached their fair share of stud talent over the years. The only problem is its not currently in their programs. Both North Carolina’s Butch Davis and Rutgers Greg Schiano saw plenty of great football players when they were together at the University of Miami, Schiano serving as the defensive coordinator for Davis in 1999 and 2000. Additionally, both coaches have had stints in the NFL.

But this Thursday night both coaches will be trying to squeeze as much success as they can from rosters that are a far cry from the great Canes teams of the late 90’s. Not that there aren’t some bright spots.

Davis has probably said a little prayer of thanks every night for the past week for WR Brandon Tate. If not for the heroics of Tate, the Tar Heels would have likely started the season by losing at home to McNeese State. And no, that wasn’t a typo.

Tate, who also returns kicks, set a UNC record for all-purpose yardage (397) with his punt and kickoff returns and receiving and rushing yardage against McNeese State. The senior found pay dirt on a 57-yard pass play and an 82-yard punt return and also set up a touchdown with a 54-yard run. Obviously his contributions were huge for the Tar Heels as they rallied for the 35-27 win.

But when you win that ugly against a team that weak its hardly cause for celebration. By the time they kick off Thursday night Davis will have had 12 days to get things in order for the Scarlet Knights. Carolina will simply have to get more production from their trio of running backs Greg Little, Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston as well as a better effort from QB T.J. Yates because you can be sure Schiano won’t let Tate take this game over.

Schiano actually probably wishes that Tate was the only thing he had to worry about going into this game. Like Davis, Schiano has lots of questions to answer after his first game and unfortunately for Rutgers fans, the first game resulted in a loss.

At least losing to Fresno State is respectable but that said, Schiano no doubt feels his team let a great opportunity slip by to knock off a quality opponent to start the year.

The Scarlet Knights can points to a bevy of mistakes and questionable coaching decisions in their 24-7 loss to the Bulldgos. It certainly didn’t help that Schiano’s new kicker, San San Te, missed two field goals but there is plenty of other blame to go around as Rutgers failed to convert on a fourth-and-goal play from the 3, threw an interception in the end zone and had an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown wiped out by a block-in-the-back penalty.

In short, not a great day for Schiano and his staff, particularly offensive coordinator John McNulty who watched his unit get held scoreless in the first half of a game for the first time since 2002.

Like Davis, Schiano has had plenty of time – nine days – to get things cleaned up and get ready for this game.

Also like North Carolina, the Scarlet Knights will have to get more yards from their running backs, Kordell Young and Mason Robinson and more production from QB Mike Teel certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

Whichever coach can turn their team around from shaky performances in Week one will likely find themselves in the winner’s circle at the end of this game.

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Re: Thursday Football News and Notes

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Oddsmakers currently have the Scarlet Knights listed as 5-point favorites versus the Tar Heels, while the game's total is sitting at 46½.

Team records:
North Carolina: 1-0 SU, 0-0 ATS
Rutgers: 0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS

North Carolina most recently:
When playing in September are 3-7
When playing on turf are 5-3
After being outgained are 3-7
When playing outside the conference are 3-7

Rutgers most recently:
When playing in September are 8-2
When playing on turf are 5-5
After being outgained are 7-3
When playing outside the conference are 8-2

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 17 of North Carolina's last 24 games on the road
North Carolina is 4-8 ATS in its last 12 games on the road
North Carolina is 7-15 SU in its last 22 games
North Carolina is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Rutgers is 14-4 SU in its last 18 games at home
Rutgers is 17-8 SU in its last 25 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Rutgers's last 6 games at home
Rutgers is 2-5 ATS in its last 7 games at home

Next up:
North Carolina home to Virginia Tech, Saturday, September 20
Rutgers at Navy, Saturday, September 20

N CAROLINA (1 - 0) at RUTGERS (0 - 1)

There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
RUTGERS is 1-0 against the spread versus N CAROLINA over the last 3 seasons
RUTGERS is 1-0 straight up against N CAROLINA over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons 

North Carolina at Rutgers

North Carolina: 1-5 ATS 1st month of season
Rutgers: 8-2 ATS in non-conference games


North Carolina is 7-15 SU in its last 22 games
North Carolina is 4-8 ATS in its last 12 games on the road
Rutgers is 2-5 ATS in its last 7 games at home
Rutgers is 14-4 SU in its last 18 games at home

North Carolina at Rutgers

North Carolina: The Tar Heels won their opener over Division I-AA McNeese State 35-27 in a game that was much tougher than anticipated. The running game struggled with the tailbacks contributing only 69 yards to the 163-yard total. Wide receiver Brandon Tate provided some big plays on reverses or the Tar Heels would have netted only 57 yards on the ground. North Carolina was no better at stopping the run. The Heels defense allowed McNeese State to rush for 152 yards. Even though Rutgers no longer has Ray Rice, they will look to exploit Carolina?s soft run defense with Kordell Young. Overall, the Heels gave up 391 to McNeese State, so defense is a huge concern for Butch Davis coming into this game. The Tar Heels will be looking for their first victory outside of the state of North Carolina since 2002.

North Carolina is 2-5 ATS in its last 7 games in September.
North Carolina is 0-5 ATS in its 5 vs. Big East.

Key Injuries - FB Bobby Rome (ankle) is questionable.

PROJECTED SCORE: 24 (OVER - Total Play of the Day)

Rutgers (-5, O/U 45): The Scarlet Knights will be looking to rebound after a disappointing home loss to Fresno State to open the season. Rutgers will be looking to re-establish its dominance at home. The Scarlet Knights went 7-0 at home in 2006 but are just 5-4 since. If thats going to happen, Rutgers needs to find some offense. They recorded just 106 rushing yards against Fresno State and were held scoreless in the first half. The Scarlet Knights have a talented trio of receivers but there were way too many drops in the opener. This game features an interesting battle of coaches. Greg Schiano was Butch Davis' defensive coordinator at the University of Miami, and this is the first time the two will face off as head coaches.

Rutgers is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 Thursday games.
Rutgers is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games vs. a team with a winning record.

Key Injuries - DE Gary Watts (knee) is questionable.
LT Anthony Davis (back) is questionable.


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