On their way to being 6-2, the Tar heels have suffered a couple of disappointing losses to Florida State and Virginia, but a home game against Notre Dame is the perfect chance for North Carolina to prove that the preseason hype surrounding the program was justified. It’s also a must-win game if the Tar Heels are going to keep their slim ACC title hopes alive.
As for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish are close to reaching the conference championship game during their one-year cameo in the ACC. Of course, finishing the season undefeated will also give the Irish a ticket to the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame has three more games until the ACC Championship Game and a potential rematch with Clemson, and this is easily their biggest test between now and then.
Sam and Company
Quarterback Sam Howell has received most of the praise for the Tar Heels, averaging close to 43 points per game, but the entire UNC offense has been dynamic this season. Running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter are both averaging over 100 rushing yards per game, which has taken a lot of heat off of Howell. Meanwhile, the receiving tandem of Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome is one of the best in the ACC, making it easy for Howell to distribute the ball to his playmakers.
However, North Carolina has struggled defensively all season. In their last game, the Tar Heels gave up 53 points to Wake Forest, as they got torched through the air by Sam Hartman for over 400 yards. In other games, the UNC defense has been shredded on the ground, so there are plenty of holes that most teams have been able to expose.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book has been the one constant for the Fighting Irish offense. Meanwhile, the rest of the offense around him has slowly improved. Behind a strong offensive line, Kyren Williams has emerged as the team’s primary back and was instrumental in the win over Clemson. Perhaps more importantly, receivers Avery Davis and Javon McKinley are giving the Irish a downfield threat, which is a dimension that Notre Dame lacked early in the season.
On the other side of the ball, the Notre Dame defense has been solid all season until the last two games. To be fair, giving up 40 points against Clemson isn’t the worst thing in the world, but the Irish also conceded 31 points against a mediocre Boston College offense, which is a troubling sign ahead of a game against the high-powered UNC offense.
Up to the Test
Notre Dame has answered every challenge they’ve faced this season, so the Irish should be able to handle a trip to Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels will surely make things interesting behind a dynamic offense. But the Fighting Irish are more likely to make a stand defensively, which should help them gain separation. Bet on Notre Dame to win and cover against North Carolina.
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