Frankie V’s Prediction: Can Notre Dame Slow Down Tar Heels, Stay Undefeated?

Notre Dame returns to action this afternoon on a rare Friday afternoon matinee for their last major test of the season against #19 North Carolina. The Irish arecoming off a bye week, but despite the rest, they’ll be playing down a couple of starters. After today, the Irish have just a couple of tuneups on the schedule, but until then the dynamic Tar Heel offense posses a major threat for Notre Dame’s plans of a perfect regular season.

Notre Dame needs its ground game today

One of the best ways to slow down an explosive offense is to keep the ball out of their hands. Even with two starters out on the offensive line – Jarrett Patterson and Tommy Kraemer – Notre Dame should be able to run the ball on a porous Tar Heel run defense. Opponents average 4.1 yards per carry on North Carolina compared to an average of just 2.9 ypc by the Notre Dame defense.

This is the kind of game tailor-made for Notre Dame to run the ball, control the clock, and frustrate the North Carolina offense by keeping them off the field for long periods. That was Notre Dame’s approach with Louisville, and they dominated the time of possession even if the scoreboard frustrated us all because of missed opportunities by the Irish offense.

If Notre Dame deploys a similar game plan but is more efficient in their execution, every Notre Dame fan should be happy. Kyren Williams and C’bo Flemister were banged up a bit two weeks ago but should be fine for today. Both backs, along with Chris Tyree, should eat today.

Ian Book might not have pretty stats today, and that’s okay

If Notre Dame goes run-heavy today, Ian Book might not have gaudy numbers today, and it is perfectly OK. Book isn’t trying to win the Heisman today; he’s trying to get Notre Dame to 9-0 and past their last big hurdle for a perfect regular season.

Notre Dame fans love to compare Book to Phil Jurkovec so inevitably some will point to Jurkovec’s 300+ yards against North Carolina earlier this year, but if Book throws for less than 200 and Notre Dame wins, that is all that matters today.

Book has been playing great over the last few games so I wouldn’t be surprised if he did end up with a monster game should Rees and Kelly choose to air it out. The Tar Heels defense hasn’t been able to stop anyone, so the Irish should be able to do whatever they want today.

Will Braden Lenzy get on the field?

Brian Kelly said earlier this week that Braden Lenzy could be back sooner rather than later, but it’s still unclear if he’ll play today or if he’ll just make the trip. Lenzy’s balky hamstring has been problematic since the summer and his speed has been missed in this offense. It’s really been the only missing link at this point. If he is healthy enough to play today, it will be interesting to see how much, if at all Lenzy plays,

Having Lenzy healthy and available for a potential ACC Championship game rematch with Clemson would give the Irish offense a much different look than the one that put up 47 points on the Tigers earlier this month.

Irish defense will surrender points, don’t freak out

While North Carolina’s defense is bad, their offense is elite. They will score points today even though the Notre Dame defense is one of the best they’ll see all year. UNC is averaging over 40 points a game this season and nearly 50 a game over the last three contests.

With explosive wide receivers and an elite quarterback, look for Notre Dame to play a much more bend/don’t break brand of defense today than we saw versus Clemson when they put their corners on an island at times. The key will be to come up with a turnover or two – something the defense has struggled with – and to force North Carolina to settle for field goals.

This is the kind of game that it doesn’t matter if Sam Howell puts up 400 yards so long as the Irish defense keeps the points down. If the Irish defense holds North Carolian to under 30 today, that will be a big accomplishment.

Prediction Time

Admitingly, I have not had as much time to tink about this one as I’d like with Thanksgiving prep and all, but the more I’ve thought about it since dinner ended last night, the more I am thinking this will not be a high scoring, shootout like many think it will. The over/under on this one is 66.5 and I think it’ll come in below that.

We’ve seen Notre Dame commit to the running game in situations like this this year and North Carolina just doesn’t have the defense to slow down Notre Dame’s rush attack. I expect the Irish to limit possessions, control the clock, and grindout a win in the end.

Notre Dame 34, North Carolina 24

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  1. Hamilton targeting. Close call. Look closely- he lowered his head, bad technique. But the receiver lowered his head too. Not as blatant as some people think. Avoidable with better tackling technique but not deserving of targeting..just my opinion

  2. To S Fan Rob – and everyone. Been an Irish fan forever, good times n bad. This team is different. Together. Pick each other up. Never panics. VERY WELL COACHED. Kelly is different, Rees learning on the fly n adjusted game plan today. Recruiting better in leaps n bounds. We all remember the past..forget the past. I used to be down on more..he is a WINNER..THIS TEAN RALLIES AROUND HIM N EACH OTHER. Go Irish!

    1. Michael,

      I’m a life-longer too and those on here know that.

      Book has quieted a lot of people. But that underhand pitch was very risky. But more than that. After the completion to Skworonek was overturned (because BK and Co. didn’t realize that it was close ans showed no urgency, so not good coaching!) Book missed an open Avery Davis for what would’ve been a huge gain at a critical time when the game was still in doubt. Those are the throws Book fails to complete regularly that he needs to do against the big-time teams. You’ll need every point you can get against Clemson, Bama, Ohio St.!

      So things are looking up. But let’s not fool ourselves, this team is far from close to perfect. The DBs are suspect, the OL is hurt, the STs units are inconsistent at best.

      GO IRISH!

  3. the first 2 drives where NC went right down the field and scored was mainly due to very poor tackling on Notredames part. They actually had good pressure on Howell and were in a position to hold North Carolina to small gains but the poor tackling, bad angles etc allowed for the big gains and scores. I also think not having both Patterson and Kramer on the offensive line hurt Notredame especially on the inside runs and pass protection. Book was flushed too many times.

  4. Solid win. The O helped out the D big time by holding on to the ball. But the D, especially the front 7, took over. Howell didn’t have time and the stud UNC RBs were held in check by the front wall, too. DBs are still a liability. The front 7 will have to continue to stop the run and get after the QB.

    Doerer is a problem. ND might need him to make a key kick and he’s far from automatic. Bramblett is still wildly inconsistent. That won’t change.

    Bottom line is this was a great win! The O did enough on the ground and through the air. Book was solid. Made some key plays by not taking a sack. The RBs continue to run hard. The O line gave up some pressures and didn’t totally dominate on the run, but two backups played well enough. The D line and LBs took over the game and protected the CBs and safeties.


  5. At this point, Doerer should be considered a liability. There’s nothing automatic with this kid right now. Even his ETs look shaky!

    The ND O will have to score at least ten more points and eat up clock and hope the D can hang on. Plain and simple. The ND front 7 will have to win this game because Howell and his WRs will eat up the DBs.



  6. That targeting might end up being the play that decides the game. Not only does it keep a UNC drive alive, but now the D will be without Hamilton!

    Just terrible D on last two third downs. Allowed conversions on third and 18 and third and 20. Even if they can stop Howell and Co., they can’t get the ball back for the O.

      1. No easy way to say this, since he’s a good guy, but Hamilton may just have cost ND an undefeated season and shot at the POs. That was a stupid play. Plain and simple. Just tackle the WR who’s ten yards short of a first down.

        What a selfish as shit play by Hamilton! IF ND loses, that’s how I’ll remember Hamilton this season and perhaps for his whole ND career. That’s how just utterly stupid and selfish that cheap shot was on his part!

      1. ND needs to start recruiting more athletes to play DB.

        Perhaps one of the little used WRs can get a look at CB. The guys out there now can’t make plays against quality WRs.

        Book will need to out-duel the UNC QB. Plain and simple. He’s looked good thus far but I think Howell will win out in the end. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

  7. Big response from O!

    Now if the D can get the ball back for the O and put another long TD drive that eats up clock and gives the Irish the lead, things will look up for ND.



  8. The ND D will get exposed today if the O can’t move the ball.

    The ND DBs are a big reason why this team will not be able to beat the big-time Os on a consistent basis. When was the last time anyone saw a ND DB make a play on the ball in the air?

    This is a bad match-up for ND. Can they win? Sure. But those opening plays on O and D prove ND will have to play a hell of a lot better on both sides of the ball!



    1. Predictable start, Jeff.

      On the road, in big games, BK’s teams have traditionally started off slow.

      This is a bad match-up, Jeff. ND will struggle, I think. I hope I’m wrong and ND wins going away.

    1. Hey, Jeff, that’s unlike you to be so optimistic.

      I hope you’re right. I can see ND putting up over 40. But keeping the UNC O to under 30 is tough.

      Optimistically, I can hope for a 42-28 win. That’s too close for comfort, but it’s not unrealistic, I think, Jeff.

      GO IRISH!

      BEAT UNC!

      1. Hey Rob, The final score will probably be closer to your call due to Kelly playing conservative. Coming off a bye week and well rested I expect the Irish D to play well.

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