It’s finally here! A full slate of college football for Week 1. There are loads of games to pick and choose from. Keep it light, and stick with strong conviction plays this early in a new season.
Here’s one underdog to bet.
North Carolina (-140) vs. South Carolina +2.5 (+115)
Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler is not given enough recognition. He's 23-7 as a starter, but five of those losses came last year in his first season with South Carolina, and three of them were respectable (Georgia, Florida and Notre Dame).
I’m choosing to believe there’s more to this offense based on the final two games of the 2022 season. Rattler had back-to-back games airing it out with wins over Clemson and Tennessee, throwing for 798 passing yards and eight touchdowns. Coach Shane Beamer needs to implement more of that!
Rattler will have his go-to guy back in the mix in leading receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells. The 6-foot-1 senior finished fifth in the SEC in receiving yards and fourth in receiving yards per game. He’s a huge returning piece for the Gamecocks' offense.
Shove the passing attack down North Carolina’s throat. Last year, the Tar Heels were bottom-20 (111th) in passing defense while ranking fifth-worst on the road. It's a poor secondary and needs to replace two of its top three defensive backs, including Storm Duck, who accounted for most passes deflected and most interceptions on team.
Rattler has the arm strength and talent to exploit this defense using Wells’ after-the-catch ability to really gain some yards against UNC.
Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye is an early-look Heisman contender. However, he could have some trouble against the Gamecocks' defense, which led the SEC in forced interceptions and returns three of its top four defensive backs. The South Carolina secondary will be the strength of the defense.
Back South Carolina +2.5, and sprinkle that +115 moneyline
Additional betting tip: I contemplated the OVER 64.5. However, Maye faced only two defenses last year in the top 50 against the pass, losing to Notre Dame 45-32 and Georgia Tech 21-17. Neither of those games was on the road, which makes Maye’s performance a question and gives me more conviction backing the underdog.