Frankie V Prediction: Notre Dame v. North Carolina ’17

Ian Book - Notre Dame QB

Notre Dame hits the road this afternoon for the third time this season as they look to improve to 5-1 on the season with an injury riddled North Carolina team standing in their way.  The Tar Heels will host the Irish as perhaps the most injured team in the country.  Notre Dame brings its own injury concerns into the game as well with the status of starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush still up in the air.  Can the Irish win without Wimbush?  Let’s find out.

What Concerns Me This Week

The health of the Notre Dame running backs.  Notre Dame running backs have been a bit banged up over the last few weeks.  The Irish didn’t have Tony Jones for the Michigan State game or Dexter Williams for Miami of Ohio.  Then last week the Irish lost Josh Adams to a “cranky” ankle and Tony Jones after taking a head shot in the 2nd quarter.  All Irish backs are expected to be ready this week though it would be surprising to see much if any of Jones after the hit he took last week.  Notre Dame needs all three backs to get through this week and into the bye week healthy because they will be needed for the upcoming stretch of games featuring 3 ranked opponents over four weeks.

Staying healthy.  With a bye week next week before USC and a wounded opponent that the Irish should handle easily today, let’s hope the Irish do so while staying healthy.  If the Irish win today and head into the showdown with USC at 5-1, they will have a chance to insert themselves into the playoff conversation.  I’ve been avoiding mentioning the P word so far after last year, but if the Irish are sitting at 5-1 while hosting the Trojans, they could get themselves back in the mix.  Now, let’s make sure they get there 5-1 ad they do so healthy.

Midterms Week.  Notre Dame has had a history of being flat during midterms week and this year midterms also combine with a road game.  Ruh roh right?  Possibly.  If Notre Dame comes out sluggish this could be one of the reasons why.

A repeat of 2014. I have had a hard time not having some flashbacks to 2014 when it looked like the Notre Dame defense under then first year defensive coordinator Brian Vangorder was on it’s way to becoming a pretty good unit.  Then North Carolina came to town and tore that defense apart and it was never the same after.  This one could just be a bit of paranoia but that game shouldn’t have been close either but it was.

What Doesn’t Concern Me This Week

Who starts at quarterback for Notre Dame.  I don’t think it matters who starts for Notre Dame under center.  North Carolina’s defense is so banged up that the Irish could potentially win this one with very little passing at all.  I don’t think we’ll see Wimbush start after trying to interpret Kelly-speak all week and think Ian Book is capable of coming in and leading the offense to a victory.  Wimbush will still be available if needed, but I don’t think he will be.  Book meanwhile will put together a nice stat sheet and there will be an inevitable call for him to start by some Irish fans.

Notre Dame’s 3rd road game in 4 weeks. Notre Dame has been pretty bad on the road in recent years but so far this year the Irish have won both road games by 20 or more points against Power 5 opponents.  North Carolina doesn’t exactly have an intimidating atmosphere and their previously mentioned injury woes won’t make it any sort of daunting task to go in to Chapel Hill this afternoon.

Players to Watch

  • Josh Adams – How is that ankle today?
  • Equanimeous St. Brown – If Ian Book does start, ESB will be getting a lot of one on one looks with Carolina likely loading the box to force Book to beat them with his arm.  Brown could finally have the breakout performance we’ve been waiting for all season today.
  • Daelin Hayes – He’s been very quiet in the pass rush since week one.  Can they get the youngster going today?
  • Notre Dame Tight Ends – If Book starts, the tight ends should be involved early and often as young quarterbacks tend to lean on their tight ends.
  • Nick Watkins – He had a tough outing last week but he’s too good to have back to back games like that.  UNC might test him early after they saw last week’s game tape though.
  • Shaun Crawford – Because watch this kid every week.  He’s a ballhawk.
  • Dexter Williams – Will he be fully back this week?
  • Kevin Stepherson – We saw him briefly last week for a series and then not much else.  Look for Notre Dame to try to get him involved more this week.

How’d I Do Last Week

Not too shabby.  At halftime it looked like my prediction would be way off as Notre Dame raced to 45 first half points.  The Irish finished with a 52-17 victory while I predicted Notre Dame 49-13.  I was worried about Notre Dame’s running backs health last week and sure enough the Irish lost Josh Adams after his absolutely torrid start.  Adams had 159 yards before getting shut down in the second quarter with a minor ankle injury.  He is expected back today though.

Prediction Time

Regardless of who starts at quarterback, this is a game Notre Dame should win.  The Tar Heels string of injuries has been absolutely brutal.  Notre Dame’s running game should be able to get going no matter how much North Carolina stacks the box as long as the Notre Dame running backs are relatively healthy.  The Tar Heels have scored just 24 points combined in the last two weeks against Duke and Wake Forest.  Mike Elko’s defense will continue its string of holding opponents to 20 points or less this afternoon and Notre Dame’s ground game and some timely passing from Book (or Wimbush) get it done and get the Irish back into the top 20.

In the preseason I had predicted a 31-21 victory for Notre Dame, but given what I’ve seen so far, I’m not sticking with that.  I think Notre Dame wins bigger than that today even with it being a road game during midterms week.

Actual Prediction: Notre Dame 41, North Carolina 17
Preseason Prediction: Notre Dame 31, North Carolina 21

Yearly Prediction Summary

GamePre-SeasonGame WeekActual Outcome
Week 12: StanfordND 24-21ND 31-17
Week 11: NavyND 49-17ND 45-24ND 24-17
Week 10: MiamiND 31-27ND 38-24UM 41-8
Week 9: Wake ForestND 34-24ND 42-13ND 48-37
Week 8: #14 NC StateND 34-17ND 34-24ND 35-14
Week 7: #21 USCUSC 38-24ND 34-31ND 49-14
Week 6: North CarolinaND 31-21ND 41-17ND 33-10
Week 5: Miami OHND 42-17ND 49-13ND 52-17
Week 4: #16 Michigan StateND 24-13ND 30-28ND 38-18
Week 3: Boston CollegeND 35-10ND 35-10ND 49-20
Week 2: #3 GeorgiaUGA 29-27UGA 29-27UGA 20-19
Week 1: TempleND 31-21ND 31-21ND 49-16

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47 comments

  1. Jeff 3 years ago

    Solid performance by Ian Book. Hard to win on the road with your
    inexperienced back up QB. He made some mistakes and poor throws.
    He got away with throwing across his body a few times. Overall he did
    a good job under tough circumstances. Great to get this kid some reps
    because lets face it, Wimbush will get hurt again.

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  2. Keith 3 years ago

    Lots of negativity over this game and I agree it was a disappointing performance.

    But can we just take a minute to appreciate the luxury of being disappointed by a 23 point victory, on the road, with our backup QB, against a Power5 team?

    Our #4 RB ran for 124 yards and 2 TDs on 12 carries. Our defense recorded 2 sacks, 5 TFLs, 11 QB hurries, a safety, and forced 3 turnovers.

    Nearly 500 yards of total offense in the rain, on a below average field, with a QB making his first start and a few big mistakes (which we overcame). If you’d have told me in July that I’d be disappointed by a game like this, I’d have called you crazy.

    It’s awesome being disappointed by a 23 point win instead of justifying or explaining a 3-point loss. It’s just awesome.

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    1. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

      Solid observations, Keith.

      There is definitely progress. Now, it’s time to take the next step and beat ranked teams.

      Go Irish!

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      1. Keith 3 years ago

        We’ll get our chance in 3 of our next 4 games (though a victory over ranked team might already be on our resume thanks to MSU).

        Go Irish!

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  3. Greg Kelly 3 years ago

    Bradley, good job. At least I got correct Book, taking the K nee. Looking forward to see your forecast in 2weeks.

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  4. ChrisJ 3 years ago

    I think this puts those conversations of Book for Wimbush to rest for some of you thinking that was a possibility. Wimbush is too dynamic of a runner which adds that much more to the offense. He will learn to pass better, there’s no doubt.

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  5. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

    This starting D is beginning to allow a lot of yards and plays to a really bad UNC O.

    This is the 2012 D all over again. A truly elite O would have their way with them.

    I guess we’ll find out how good this D is in two weeks. Hopefully they make me eat my words!

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  6. tommy651 3 years ago

    if Kelly had to make a choice between running the ball three times in a row or getting cancer I think he would opt for cancer. are the running backs that beat up?

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  7. Greg Kelly 3 years ago

    Game over , but, Bradley I know you’re nervous, garbage time starting and Heels will get to 17 points

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  8. spiceyirish 3 years ago

    On the bright side, this is the best Notre Dame has played along the defensive front in about five years.

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  9. George 3 years ago

    Book is a bit careless with the ball, but Wimbush is afraid to throw it. Who else we got? MVG?

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    1. spiceyirish 3 years ago

      Is Avery Davis the true freshman QB?

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      1. George 3 years ago

        I don’t think he even dresses

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