Old Dominion football has ascended rather quickly since joining the FBS ranks and Conference USA in 2014. Really, the Monarchs were pretty strong right out of the gate, going 6-6 in their initial season and building to 10-3 with a Bahamas Bowl victory over Eastern Michigan last season.
This Saturday, another opportunity comes knocking as North Carolina travels to Norfolk to take on the 2-0 Monarchs. It doesn’t matter that the Tar Heels are 0-2 after falling to Lamar Jackson andLouisville. This is UNC from the ACC and ODU has a chance to show the college football world how far it has come in a short period of time.
This is the first-ever meeting between the two schools and Old Dominion is 0-4 in previous games against Power 5 opponents.
North Carolina at Old Dominion
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 16 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Stadium Video
Spread: North Carolina -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. North Carolina quarterback situation
Chazz Surratt got his first start last Saturday and had a very good first half, going 12 of 14 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. But an injury forced him to the bench in the second half and even though he may have been able to return, Brandon Harris played the rest of the game. There is a reason that Surratt got the start against Louisville and head coach Larry Fedora has stated that the lefty will open the game for the Tar Heels. But if things don’t go smoothly, expect to see Harris sooner rather than later.
2. ODU running game
Ray Lawry was a work horse for the Monarchs last year, running for 1,255 yards and 11 touchdowns. But a hamstring problem has limited his effectiveness this fall, holding him to just 44 yards on five carries. Jeremy Cox, who was a more than capable reserve last year, has taken the reins as the lead back. The Monarchs are 81st in rushing offense, so Cox hasn’t been as productive as last season. But Carolina has not been able to stop the run for several years and California and Louisville had plenty of success on the ground in the first two games. ODU will have to establish Cox (and perhaps Lawry) early on to open things up for quarterback Blake LaRussa.
3. UNC offensive line
Along the offensive front, the Tar Heels have been ravaged by injuries. It started in camp with guard Tommy Hatton and tackle Bentley Spain, who returned and then was hurt once again. Nick Polino and Alex Dillard then went down against Louisville. The big issue right now is not necessarily the quality of the current linemen, but the depth. There will be little rest for the starters and if another lineman is injured, it would be a big problem.
Old Dominion comes in at 2-0 and North Carolina comes in at 0-2. It would seem that at home, this could be an upset possibility for the upstart Monarchs. But ODU hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in its two wins, beating Albany from the FCS 31-17 and getting by lowly UMass 17-7 in a game that wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter. The Monarchs have not run the ball as expected and Blake LaRussa has struggled at quarterback. North Carolina may not be firing on all cylinders, but the Tar Heels have better players than ODU and that will show through as they pick up their first win of the season.
Prediction: North Carolina 27, Old Dominion 14
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.