Notre Dame Football Primer: Irish Travel to Take on High-Scoring Tar Heels

The Fighting Irish are looking to build off the momentum from last weekend and get their first road victory of the fall.

It was not easy, but Marcus Freeman got his first victory in South Bend. For Notre Dame to get a second win this weekend, the team must continue taking steps forward. The Fighting Irish will travel to Chapel Hill to play in front of another hostile environment. Mack Brown and the Tar Heels have not had success against Notre Dame and will be hungry to knock them off Saturday afternoon.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, September 24th at 3:30 PM ET on ABC
  • Location: Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 20-1 all-time against the North Carolina Tar Heels (Last Meeting 2021: Irish won 44 to 34)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -1.0

North Carolina Details:

  • Conference: ACC (Coastal Division)
  • Head Coach: Mack Brown
  • 2022 Record: 3-0
  • 2021 Record: 6-7 (3-5)

Weather Forecast

The current GameDay forecast shows a 5% chance of rain with a high of 78 degrees and low of 54.

North Carolina Storylines:

Mack Brown and the Tar Heels enter week four undefeated. North Carolina has victories over FAMU, Appalachian State, and Georgia State. Their most impressive win is undoubtedly on the road against Appalachian State (who beat Texas A & M in week two). After a 10-point loss to the Irish in South Bend last year, the Tar Heels are eager to beat Notre Dame for the first time since 2008.

Quarterback Drake Maye leads the North Carolina Offense. This season, Maye is 72 for 97 (74%) with 11 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, and 6 sacks taken. On the ground, he has 26 attempts for 146 yards (5.6 yards per carry) with 1 rushing score. Maye’s top targets are wide receiver Kobe Paysour and tight end Kamari Morales.

Through three games, Paysour has 14 receptions for 172 yards with 2 touchdowns, while Morales has 8 catches for 135 yards and 2 scores. The Tar Heel rushing attack is headlined by running back Omarion Hampton. In 2022, Hampton has 38 attempts for 228 yards (6 yards per carry) with 5 rushing touchdowns.

Notre Dame Storylines:

The Notre Dame Offense took a step forward against Cal. Tommy Rees called one of his best games as offensive coordinator in South Bend. The offense got Chris Tyree more involved, utilized running back screens, got the receivers involved in the running attack, and moved the pocket for Drew Pyne. Notre Dame’s game plan was well suited for a first-time starting quarterback.

The Irish Offense has potential moving forward. This offense did just enough to earn a victory against California but will need to improve even more to knock off the Tar Heels. Drew Pyne went a respectable 17 for 23 with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Now, there was a fumbled snap under center and several missed wide-open receivers in the first half, but those are self-inflicted errors that can be cleaned up moving forward.

Notre Dame’s Offensive Line did accumulate 147 yards on the ground. However, it took 41 carries to hit that mark (3.6 yards per attempt). Overall, the Notre Dame Football team had 8 penalties against Cal, most of which were on the offense. At least the mistakes this week were fixable, unlike the week prior against Marshall where the offensive and defensive lines were pushed around.

Al Golden’s Defense must play at an elite level again on Saturday. The defense came through time after time in the 4th quarter against California. Although the box score will not reflect it, the unit produced two turnovers late in the game (one was called back for targeting, and the latter was because Jack Plummer’s knee hit the ground a millisecond before he fumbled).

Although the Golden Bears had an outrageous number of possessions, the Irish Defense held them to only 296 total yards. Notre Dame recorded 6 sacks and 8 tackles for loss, while limiting Cal to only 17 points.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. North Carolina Defense: The Fighting Irish are averaging 300 yards per game, while the North Carolina Defense is allowing 468 yards per matchup. Notre Dame’s Offense played horrendous in the first half last week and looked adequate in the second. There is a lot of potential in the future, but too many uncertainties on offense now.

The Tar Heels have a slight advantage.

Advantage: North Carolina

North Carolina Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: Mack Brown’s Offense is averaging 547 yards per matchup, while the Irish Defense is allowing 352 yards per contest. The Tar Heels have been putting up loads of points this season, but they have not faced a defense like the Irish all year.

If Notre Dame plays with the same intensity that they did against Ohio State and California, they will have the advantage in this matchup.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: Notre Dame’s kicker Blake Grupe is 2 for 2 on the year with his longest make coming at 47 yards (he did get lucky as there was a questionable offsides call on California after a missed field goal). Meanwhile, North Carolina’s kicker Noah Burnette is also 2 for 2 with his longest make coming at 47 yards.

There is no advantage on special teams.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

Notre Dame will face North Carolina for the third straight year on Saturday. The Irish were able to find a way to win against California, but it will take even better execution on the road for the team to get their second victory. Tommy Rees had a great game plan last week, which did not go into effect until the offense started running the ball and Drew Pyne settled down.

If the defense continues to play with passion this week, they will keep the Irish in the game and wreak havoc. The first official turnover for Notre Dame is coming soon.

I believe the offense will take another step in the right direction on Saturday. Most of the mistakes last week were mental and from nerves. Notre Dame’s Offensive Line must help takeover as Drew Pyne and the receivers get a rhythm forming. I have the Irish finally scoring over 30-points and winning by 7-points on the road in Chapel Hill.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31 North Carolina 24

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  1. David is right about our history of making second or third offenses look like pro’s. How many times has a slightly better than average QB plays like an All American against our D? And for the rest of the season, he stinks up the field against anyone else. It is infuriating! I get it, David…we all feel that pain. But it predates Kelly. If Bullet Bob Griese comes in, or Roger Staubach, and picks us apart, you just give the devil his due…but then they don’t go on to mediocrity, do they. Don’t make Marshall’s QB look like Stroud in the fourth quarter, an we win that game. Yes, always a target on our back, but don’t make some average guy look like Annie Oakley for a day when IRL he can’t shoot much better than me!

    BGC 77 82

  2. Three consecutive ‘3 and outs’ from our offense will doom our so-so defense. Offense needs a spark. Angeli could be what ignites this offense. Seriously, we couldn’t win with Bucky, we can’t win with Rudy, er, Pyne, so it’s Angeli with a decent game plan.

  3. Not to worrry! As I have learned reading the UHND football forum, Pyne’s 2nd half was an incredible display of passing efficiency and accuracy.
    Having watched the game myself, I really needed to educated on that.
    My first impression afterwards was that he was downright awful….how wrong I was!

    Besides, there’s no reason to think the UNC defense is any better than Cal…so this one should be a cakewalk.

    1. The other interesting thing i notice on the forum board is the current reposting of the “ND’s schedule is SO hard!” trope.
      It’s a classic defense mechanism: After losing to Marshall, and almost losing to Cal, it’s clear that ALL the opponents are simply excellent. Not a gimme among ’em !

      Sorry. You’re high. ND’s offense is just really bad.

      1. True. How much easier would it have to be if we are losing to Marshall?
        Teams that, are (still) in Division 2? We do have a tough schedule …but so what? And California looked like good team, especially if “spotted” our
        first four possessions

        BGC 77 82

      2. So…..
        Cal beat ND. Ergo, Cal must be very good.

        ND has a history of making struggling teams look good, very average QBs Heisman candidates, and every other college stadium look like very lively.

    2. No, but there is reason to believe Carolina’s offense will score 20-25 points in a game where our defense plays well
      We have not scored 25 points in a game yet this year. And they also are undefeated, as has been all three of our other opponents.

      BGC 77 72

      1. ND was a farcical tip drill away from a job interview for 0-3.
        Mack Brown has every reason to feel good about his chances in this game.

  4. We need this game and the next one before we get BYU. If lose to Carolina
    or Nevada, Bruce Johnson’s prediction comes true, finally, and the Titantic goes down.
    But I like Pyne and the Offense to do everything Michael Owen’s is calling for above, and I like his prediction of turnovers for our defense. We will need a defensive effort equal to or exceeding that of our opening game
    Carolina has a great offense, which is what I’d expect from Coach Brown

    BGC 77 82

      1. We’ve been winning 10 games per year for quite a while now; it may be just a little pessimistic to say the Titanic goes down EVERY TIME. I do agree that the offense is very bad and this forum is seeing things through rose colored glasses if it thinks Drew Pyne’s performance inspired any sort of confidence, but we still have time to salvage this season and get to a respectable win total. North Carolina’s terrible defense is a great place to start building momentum on the offensive side of the ball. Chill out bud.

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