USA TODAY Sports
North Carolina attempts to build a seven-game winning streak for the first time since 1997 when it visits Pittsburgh on Thursday in a battle between two of the ACC Coastal Division’s three unbeaten teams. The Tar Heels have limited five of their last six opponents to 14 points or fewer while 24th-ranked Pittsburgh has won four straight contests – all by seven points or fewer.
“If it’s a close game you have to step up and make something happen,” Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi told reporters. “Our offense did it (last) weekend and our defense did it the past couple (weekends).” Pittsburgh quarterback Nathan Peterman has thrown six touchdown passes with no interceptions during the win streak and his top target Tyler Boyd is one of the nation’s most productive receivers. North Carolina, which hosts the other unbeaten Coastal squad Duke next week, boasts the league’s best passing defense (137.3 yards against per game) and senior quarterback Marquise Williams leads the top-ranked offense in the ACC. “Last five games are going to be tough,” Williams told the Raleigh News & Observer. “We’ve just got to stick together as a team.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: North Carolina opened as 1.5-point road favorites and have been bet up to -3. The total opened at 53.5 and was also bet up to 54.5.
North Carolina – OL T. Hatton (questionable Thursday, undisclosed), CB M. Stewart (questionable Thursday, suspension).
Pittsburgh – WR T. Tripton (probable Thursday, hip), DB T. Webb (probable Thursday, ankle), WR C. Wuestner (out Thursday, abdominal), DB R. Mitchell (out Thursday, foot).
WEATHER REPORT: It will be partly cloudy at game time with a very slight 10 percent chance of rain. Temperatures will be in the high 40’s and there will be a nine mile per hour cross-field wind.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (6-1, 4-3 ATS, 3-4 O/U): Williams has completed 66.9 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions in the last six games after tossing three in the opener. Quinshad Davis (30 catches, 328 yards) is one of four Tar Heels receivers to have accumulated at least 300 yards this season and needs two receptions to pass Hakeem Nicks (181) for the school record. Elijah Hood has rushed for 100 or more yards four times in 2015 – including each of the last two games – and scored eight TDs while Williams is gaining seven yards per carry.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (6-1, 4-3 ATS, 3-3-1 O/U): Boyd leads the league in catches (8.8) and receiving yards (81.5) per game while completing both of his pass attempts and rushing for 68 yards. “He’s done it all,” Narduzzi told reporters. “I don’t know why people aren’t talking about him for the Heisman.” Qadree Ollison has filled in nicely after James Conner was lost for the season with a knee injury, totaling 662 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, while the Panthers boast 22 sacks – second in the ACC and three more than all of last season.
* North Carolina is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Pittsburgh is 1-5 ATS in their last six home games.
* Under is 6-0 in North Carolina’s last six Thursday games.
* Over is 5-0 in Pittsburgh’s last five games versus a team with winning record.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is split down the middle for this big ACC clash with 50.73 percent of wagers giving Pittsburgh the slight edge.