NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (4-1)
at NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (1-4)
Kenan Memorial Stadium – Chapel Hill, NC
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -15, Total: 64.5
A disappointing Tar Heel team will need to pull it together if it wants to upset #21 Notre Dame.
After a tough home loss to a Georgia team that has since propelled itself to #5 in the AP Poll, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have flown somewhat under the radar on the national stage, thanks largely to facing lesser competition in the three games since. But the Irish have been impressive by any standard, now standing at 4-1 (4-1 ATS) after blowout wins (and covers) over Boston College, Michigan State and, last weekend, Miami of Ohio. It was yet another dominant week on the ground for Notre Dame, which ran over the RedHawks for 333 rushing yards. By halftime, the Irish led 45-14, and they cruised to a 52-17 victory against a 21-point spread. Now Notre Dame will head to Chapel Hill for a matchup that once seemed like a challenge, but now looks like it could be a walkover against a desperately struggling UNC team. The Tar Heels are 1-4 (1-4 ATS), with a win against Old Dominion sandwiched between losses to Cal and Louisville, and then Duke and Georgia Tech. At Tech last week, the offense couldn't even scratch 250 total yards in a 33-7 defeat (GT -8.0). With a bye week coming up (before a huge game against USC), the Irish would have no excuse for looking past the Tar Heels. Over the last five seasons, underdogs of 10.5 to 21 points with winning percentages at .250 or worse that have lost ATS in four of their last five (UNC) are 5-25 ATS against teams with winning records. In the same time frame, road favorites with winning records that have beat the spread by at least 35 total points in their last five games (ND) are 63-24 ATS against teams with losing records.
From a passing perspective, Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush (51.9 CMP%, 783 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT; 68 carries, 402 yards, 8 TD) hasn't bowled anyone over in his first season as a starter, and he struggled in the Irish's only high-profile game thus far this year against Georgia. In the games since, though, he has looked much better, and continued to use his legs to great effect. He completed only seven of 18 passes against Miami for 119 yards, but three of those completions went for scores. He carried the ball 11 times for 36 yards and a TD. His best game of the year came a week earlier at MSU, when he completed 14 of 20 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown--plus ran for 52 yards and a score. Naturally, Wimbush's receivers have put up modest numbers, as well. WR Equanimeous St. Brown (14 catches, 202 yards, 2 TD) has found himself subjugated in a run-heavy offense, but he looked plenty happy in scoring a touchdown to put the Irish up 35-14 over Miami with 11 minutes still to go in the first half. TE Alize Mack (11 catches, 116 yards) and WR Chase Claypool (9 catches, 108 yards, TD) are Wimbush's other primary targets. RB Josh Adams (73 carries, 658 yards, 4 TD) has been an absolute beast in the past few weeks, and he needed only 8 carries to rack up 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite losing their first two games, the Tar Heels at least looked competent on offense early on this year in scoring 65 total points against Cal and Louisville. But they only managed 17 against Duke two weeks ago, and hit a new low in the aforementioned offensive disaster against Georgia Tech last week. QB Chazz Surratt (63.3 CMP%, 988 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT) pulled away from LSU transfer QB Brandon Harris (57.1 CMP%, 276 yards, TD, 3 INT) in a quarterback competition that lingered into the season's early games, but that likely has more to do with Harris's awfulness than any particular brilliance on Surratt's part. He has certainly shown flashes--he has a big arm and can run--but struggled to get the ball downfield in completing 18 of 30 passes for 141 yards and a pick against Georgia Tech. But Notre Dame is yet to face a particularly dynamic quarterback this season, and Surratt has the raw talent to make something happen against an Irish defense that hasn't allowed more than 20 points to an opponent this season. RB Jordon Brown (54 carries, 269 yards, 3 TD; 20 catches, 125 yards) was (unfortunately) his leading receiver against Tech, catching nine balls for 57 yards. Brown only got eight carries and turned them into 41 yards and a touchdown, so maybe he can get something going against the Irish if the Tar Heels can avoid going off their game script. WR Austin Proehl (16 catches, 270 yards, TD) is a playmaker, while WRs Anthony Ratliff-Williams (11 catches, 201 yards, TD) and Jordan Cunningham (14 catches, 183 yards) aren't bad options, either.