Military Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Tulane Expert Pick and Prediction – December 27, 2023
DUKE’S MAYO BOWL: NORTH CAROLINA VS. WEST VIRGINIA EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – December 27, 2023 — In the commentary booth, the conversations about mayonnaise will be as unappetizing as it gets. On the field, the action should be a lot more palatable.
West Virginia coach Neal Brown entered 2023 as a practical dead man walking, with the Mountaineers expected to be lucky to win four games. They won eight, and it should have been nine if not for a last-second screw-up at Houston. It helped that the Mountaineers never saw Texas, Kansas State, Iowa State or Kansas, but eight wins is eight wins, even when you only play half the number of Big 12 opponents you met the year before.
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It’s been a tale of two seasons for North Carolina, which looked excellent up until Week 8 with a 6-0 start. And then the old Carolina success allergy reared its head, and the Tar Heels lost at home to a bad Virginia squad. It got no better from there, as the Heels’ defense completely imploded in November. Over the final six games, the fewest amount of points Carolina allowed to an FBS opponent was 31 to Clemson and Virginia. Their only wins down the stretch were FCS Campbell and a fading Duke in overtime.
There’s more good news in Chapel Hill: Drake Maye opted for the NFL over ending his career in Charlotte and top receiver Tez Walker finally had enough of battling the NCAA and joined him. Carolina’s also playing without leading tackler Cedric Gray, which could open up some lanes for the West Virginia ground game.
(8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)
(8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS)
When: Wednesday, December 27th at 5:30 p.m. EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Public Bets: 78% on West Virginia
Public Money: 94% on West Virginia
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 25th, 2023.
North Carolina vs. West Virginia In-Season Trends
It’s been well established under Mack Brown: Carolina can’t stop a nosebleed. The Heels ranked dead last against the pass in the ACC and 11th against the run. It’s only because of their weak schedule that they didn’t give up more points, but they really can’t stop anything that resembles a quality offense. They only went 6-5-1 to the over, but that’s because they faced some incredibly high totals.
The Mountaineers’ defense wasn’t a heck of a lot better. West Virginia didn’t face a good schedule either, yet the Mountaineers played six of their final seven to the over and only managed to keep BYU and Cincinnati to less than 28 points. In their four defeats, the Mountaineers couldn’t get a stop: they gave up an average of 46.5 points.
As long as the field stays covered in the morning, the weather shouldn’t be an issue. There will be some early rain, but the temperature will hit 65 degrees once the game gets going.
It’s easy to forget given how well Drake Maye played this year, but Carolina had a great running back in Omarion Hampton. Hampton averaged 6.2 yards per carry and went for 15 touchdowns on the season, finishing fifth in the nation in rushing yards.
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West Virginia counters with Jahiem White, who ripped off 8.2 yards per carry on the season. But given the weakness of the Carolina pass defense, this is more likely to be Garrett Greene’s game. Greene threw for 20 touchdowns on the season and 2,842 yards this year, and with Carolina’s secondary a major concern, he might put up some huge numbers.
With Carolina having folded down the stretch, there’s a reason the bets have come in on West Virginia. Neal Brown saved his job with an eight-win season, but a ninth win would make it look even better and buy him some time in Morgantown. Things aren’t nearly as risky in Chapel Hill, as Mack Brown isn’t going anywhere unless he decides to retire.
The Heels’ defense has been a train wreck for the past six weeks, and the Mountaineers have everything to play for by comparison. Even playing in Charlotte in front of a partisan crowd isn’t likely to help Carolina here.
West Virginia -6.5