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)
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.
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.
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