North Carolina Tar Heels (2-3 SU, 0-5 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date and Time: Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UNC +16.5/ND -16.5
Over/Under Total: Off
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The North Carolina Tar Heels make the trip to Indiana to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday. The 6th-ranked Fighting Irish are coming off a hard-earned 17-14 win over Stanford last week that took their record to 5-0. The Tar Heels are on a slide of three consecutive losses, including Saturdays 34-17 home loss to Virginia Tech.
The Fighting Irish narrowly averted defeat on Saturday. In a gritty contest played in wet and chilly conditions, Notre Dame was facing a late-4th quarter deficit of 14-10. QB Everett Golson was looking at a daunting 4th-and-11 just outside the red-zone with a bit over a minute left. He avoided the rush and hit Ben Koyack who caught the TD pass before falling out of bounds. It kept Notre Dame unbeaten and at number-six, theyre squarely in the running to make it into the 4-team playoff at the end of the season.
Obviously, the Tar Heels have different goals for this season. While the Irish are trying to soldier to a national championship. North Carolina is just trying to right the ship on the heels of 3 straight losses. And they arent just losing, theyre getting exploited by opposing offenses to the tune of 154 points in the past 3 weeks. At least theyre losing to good teams in East Carolina, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. But theyre facing another tough squad on Saturday and will need to find something to avoid another embarrassment. Perhaps they will catch a Fighting Irish team that is suffering from a little letdown, being that the Tar Heels arent likely to induce much fear into the hearts of the 6th-ranked team in the land.
Were beginning to see the framework of a redemption story developing with Golson and Notre Dame. He got the Irish to the title game on the heels of an unbeaten season in 2012, before being suspended for academic indiscretions. Now hes back, looking better than ever, and ready to get Notre Dame back to the big game. The comeback win over Stanford was the first close call that went their way. Look for Notre Dame to have an easier time on Saturday.
North Carolina certainly has their issues. Theyve faced some pass-happy teams, but are allowing an average of 319 yards per passing per game. And against the run, the picture isnt much rosier. The Tar Heels arent having a ton of success running the ball. But QB Marquise Williams can air it out and put points up, with the Tar Heels averaging 36 points per game. Its just that North Carolina was being given an outside shot by some to contend in their division in the ACC this season. Their 0-5 mark against the spread illustrates what a disappointment the team has been so far.
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The Tar Heels offense is led by dual-threat Williams who leads the team in rushing. Elijah Hood and TJ Logan round out an uninspiring group of backs. Williams depends on Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer in the air, with a nice cast of complimentary pieces. Seven different ball-catchers have caught TD passes this season for UNC.
Golson has thrown for 13 TD passes and only 3 interceptions. The run-game features 3 backs in Greg Bryant, Cam McDaniel, and Tarean Folston–a group that has combined for only a pair of rushing scores, while Golson has scored on the ground 4 times. The pass-game is strong with 6 receivers with double-digit receptions, led by William Fuller and Corey Robinson.
With Notre Dame favored by 16.5 points against a team that, for all its faults, can score points, you have to wonder if the Notre Dame offense will be able to really go off. If, and its a big if, North Carolina comes close to its season average of 36 points, that means Notre Dame will have to put up a number it hasnt put up in years to cover. On a good day, the Irish offense is good for 40-something points. This Tar Heels D is pretty ragged, so even if they score 50, theyre going to need to keep a lid on the North Carolina offense to cover the big number.
Notre Dames defense is a tough group, definitely the top group North Carolina has faced thus far. Notre Dame has been especially adept against the run thus far, but are slightly more vulnerable against the pass, which is the Tar Heels forte. If North Carolina can somehow hit the ground running and get off to a fast start against a Notre Dame team that is coming down off the crescendo from last week, it could be tough for the Irish to cover this spread.
Having not covered this year, North Carolina is certainly due. They stormed back in their last two games to nearly cover the spreads, so theyre knocking on the door. And in all deference to Notre Dame and what they have accomplished, the spread seems to be a tad on the big side. Even so, youre going to need to get some stops from time to time out of this Tar Heels defense. And after playing the robust Stanford defense last Saturday, the UNC D is going to seem that much easier to exploit for Notre Dame. Im taking the Irish.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting the Notre Dame Fighting Irish minus 16.5 points.