Notre Dame hits the road for its third road game of the season already on Saturday to take on the Tarheels of North Carolina. With questions surrounding the status of starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush, what looked like an easy matchup at one time now is much more intriguing. Here’s all you need to know to get ready for the game in our weekly primer.
What you Need to Know:
- Game Time: October 7th at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
- Location: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Matchup: Notre Dame is 17-2 all-time against the Tar Heels (Last Meeting 2014)
- Odds: Notre Dame -14
- GameDay Events: The Notre Dame Club of Eastern North Carolina will be hosting a Pep Rally that is free to the public. This will take place at St. Thomas More Catholic Church Hall, Chapel Hill, North Carolina at 8:00 p.m. For more details visit http://eastnc.undclub.org
Game Day Weather:
The current forecast calls for a high of 82 degrees with an overnight low of 62 degrees. There will be only a 10% chance of rain on GameDay.[wunderground location=”Chapel Hill, North Carolina” numdays=”3″ layout=”table-vertical”]
North Carolina Details:
- Conference: ACC
- Head Coach: Larry Fedora
- 2017 Record: 1-4
- 2016 Record: 8-5
North Carolina Storylines:
North Carolina has 13 players who are out for the season. Another 6 players are questionable to play against the Irish Saturday. It appears that North Carolina is facing many of the same injury challenges that plagued Notre Dame in 2015. The depleted Tar Heel roster will attempt to stop an Irish team that has dominated competition for most of the season.
Can North Carolina stop the Notre Dame rushing attack? After North Carolina gave up 33 points and 403 rushing yards to Georgia Tech last weekend, it’s not likely. The Yellow Jackets ran the ball 66 times for an average of 6.1 yards per rush against the Tar Heels. This weekend the Tar Heels will be facing an even better offensive line.
As bad as the Tar Heel defense played last weekend, the offense wasn’t any better. North Carolina was 2 of 12 on third downs, however 3 of 3 on 4th downs. Quarterback Chazz Surratt is a dual threat with 18 completions for 141 yards and 30 rushing yards on 11 attempts last week. Both the rushing and passing attacks were nowhere to be found last weekend as the Tar Heels only put up 247 yards of total offense on the board.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Once again, the main topic is the passing game. One might say that the offense has dominated every team except Georgia. I will not argue that. However, in order for Notre Dame to go undefeated the rest of the season and have a chance at the playoffs, the passing game has to be more consistent.
Wimbush is one of the best overall quarterbacks in the country when you factor in what he has accomplished with the running game. Nevertheless, if Brandon goes 7 for 18 against Miami of Ohio, what will happen when he faces the “real” Miami, the Hurricanes down the road. Yes, Wimbush played well against Michigan State, but the inconsistency is apparent.
Will Notre Dame have its starting quarterback for Saturday? Wimbush is listed as day-to-day after experiencing foot soreness following the Miami game. Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush have been splitting reps on and off during practice. As of now, I expect Wimbush to start against the Tar Heels. However, if Wimbush’s minor injury does not improve it may be Ian Book starting under center. Although the Tar Heels are beat up, Ian Book’s first career start would be on the road against ACC competition, not an easy task.
How healthy will Notre Dame be at the running back position? The Irish will have all their running backs available for the North Carolina game according to Coach Kelly. Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, and Tony Jones Jr. are all expected to be back for the Tar Heels. Adams is having a phenomenal year and averages 9 yards per carry while Saquon Barkley (Penn State) only averages 6.7 and gets the national attention. Sometimes it’s more about the quality of team and not the individual, hopefully as the Irish continue to win Adams will get more notoriety.
Head to Head Matchups:
Notre Dame Offense vs. North Carolina Defense – The North Carolina Defense is no match for the Notre Dame Offense . North Carolina will look to load the box, but it still won’t matter. The dual threat of both Wimbush and Adams running the ball will be too much to handle. Look for the passing game to be better than last week as Brandon Wimbush continues to develop.
North Carolina Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense – The Irish Defense has yet to allow a team to score over 20 points this season. Notre Dame is taking the ball away from teams and getting pressure on the quarterback. Mike Elko’s defense continues to get better each week, the Tar Heels will have a hard time finding the end zone against this defense, as many opponents have also had.
Special Teams- Tie – Notre Dame showed some trickery against Miami last weekend, as special teams coach Brian Polian got a fist bump on the sidelines. The North Carolina kicker, Freeman Jones, is only 3 of 6 on the season, but I doubt field goals will be any factor in this game. I still expect CJ Sanders to return a kickoff at some point this season, he is long overdue.
Before the year started, I thought that this would be a tough matchup and a trap game before the bye week heading into USC week. However, the Tar Heels are decimated. Early in the season they were competing with teams like California and Louisville, but last week they got destroyed.
Notre Dame will likely run the ball early in the game to build up the lead and then work on the passing attack as the game progresses. Unfortunately, the Irish do not have anything to gain in this game from a strength of schedule or resume standpoint.
From all indications, Brian Kelly is just being cautionary with Wimbush’s injury. I expect him to start this Saturday. If he cannot for some reason, I would still anticipate an Irish victory. Ian Book is a quality backup and the running game is something he can rely on heavily against an injured Tar Heels team.
My Prediction: Notre Dame 42 North Carolina 13