This could have been such a big game. North Carolina taking on storied Notre Dame. In prime time. In South Bend. Touchdown Jesus. But no, the Tar Heels didn’t live up to lofty expectations this season, ending any hopes of being a playoff contender with a week one loss to Virginia Tech. The Heels are just 4-3 on the season now, while the Fighting Irish are 6-1 and still in the hunt for a playoff berth. They’ll face off Saturday night at 7:30 at Notre Dame Stadium..
But don’t get too down Tar Heel fans – this could still end up being a very good game, and depending on which UNC team shows up, the Heels could even win it! If the running game gets going and Sam Howell has time to throw, UNC can hang with Notre Dame. The Irish offense is good but not great, they average 370 yards and 31 points a game. First year quarterback Jack Coan is a grad transfer from Wisconsin. He’s completed 63 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns. Coan’s top target is tight end Michael Mayer, and he has an excellent running back in Kyren Williams, who picked up 180 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against USC last week.
The problem for UNC is that the Notre Dame defense is really, really good. The pass rush has been excellent, they’ve racked up 19 sacks; they rank 8th in the nation with 16 turnovers, and they’re 23rd in third down defense. Star defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey has eight sacks and three forced fumbles. The secondary took a hit with the loss of All-American safety Kyle Hamilton, who injured his knee in last weeks game. But the Irish defense is giving up 370 total yards per game, and the UNC offense has enough explosive weapons to rack up yards and points quickly. But will they be able to produce when it matters?
This game might not matter in the grand scheme of things, but you’d better believe it’s a big game for North Carolina. This is a chance to prove that they can hang with the best teams in the country, not to mention pick up a signature win in what’s been a disappointing season. It’s on the road against a storied program, one that beat them last season in Chapel Hill. The bad news is the Irish are 27-1 at home since 2017, and they’ve won 37 straight against unranked opponents. And they lead in the all-time series with UNC 19-2. Ouch! So the odds are definitely stacked against the Tar Heels – let’s hope they can make it a game!
by Sharon Thorsland
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