Basketball season might have just tipped off, but all eyes will be on Kenan Stadium this Friday with a huge top 25 clash as 19th-ranked North Carolina takes on 2nd-ranked Notre Dame. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on WBT.
The Fighting Irish are a perfect 8-0 on the season, including a double-overtime thriller over then top-ranked Clemson. The Tar Heels are 6-2 and coming off a bye, and before picking up a 59-53 win over Wake Forest when quarterback Sam Howell threw for 550 yards and six touchdowns.
Notre Dame boasts a powerful offense and an outstanding defense, which is ranked ninth in the country allowing just 304 yards and 16 points per game. The strength of that defense is against the run – the Fighting Irish are number one in the ACC allowing just 85 yards a contest. They held Clemson star Travis Etienne to just 28 rushing yards.
But this week the Irish will face an explosive UNC offense that boasts possibly the best running back tandem in the nation in Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. Both backs are averaging over 100 yards per game and have combined for 19 touchdowns. Plus, Howell has been on fire, directing a UNC offense that is ranked 4th in the country and has averaged 51 points over its last four games.
Notre Dame has its own outstanding quarterback in Ian Book. The senior is a dual-threat, something the Tar Heels have had difficulty with this season. Book has thrown for over 1800 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception, and he also has 364 rushing yards with six more scores. He plays behind a solid offensive line that has allowed just 13 sacks this season, that’s tied for first in the ACC.
Book’s favorite target is Javon McKinley, who has 24 catches for 414 yards. The Irish like to run the ball, though, and they’ve got a great back in Kyren Williams. He’s picked up 777 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns. As always, UNC’s suspect defense will no doubt be an issue. The Tar Heels are giving up over 400 total yards and 30 points per game, and it will no doubt be a challenge to keep the Irish in check.
This is definitely a huge game for North Carolina. Notre Dame is one of the most storied programs in college football history. They’re undefeated and in contention for the College Football Playoff. And carry momentum into this game having won the past two matchups with the Tar Heels— boasting an 18-2 record in the all-time series. Also, one stat that is definitely not in UNC’s favor is that the Heels are 1-16 at home versus top-five teams.
That lone win came against 4th-ranked Miami way back in 2004. Can the Tar Heels duplicate that feat on Friday? They believe so, and they’re ready. “Notre Dame deserves all the respect they’ve been given,” said Howell. “It’s a great challenge for our team and I’m excited to see how we hold up against them.”