Notre Dame vs. North Carolina Pick ATS
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-0 SU, 4-4 ATS) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-2 SU, 4-4 ATS)
Date/Time: Friday, November 27th, 3:30 PM
Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
Point Spread: ND -4 / UNC +4 (BetNow - KILLER Thanksgiving Week Bonus: Deposit $100 to $1000 and get a 100% REAL CASH bonus!)
Over/Under Total: 63.5
In a pivotal Friday afternoon matchup with major ACC and BCS implications, the North Carolina Tar Heels play host to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Notre Dame has dominated the all-time series, holding an 18-2 edge against UNC, including a 33-10 win in their most recent matchup back in Chapel Hill three years ago.
After going 5-18 during the 2017-2018 seasons, North Carolina made the change to Mack Brown at head coach, and it has had a definite positive effect for the Tar Heels. They ended last season with their first bowl victory since 2013, and this year find themselves sitting in fourth place in the conference yet in control of their own destiny in terms of making the ACC title game. If UNC wins out, it would include victories against two teams ahead of them in the standings in Notre Dame this week and Miami to end the season.
Only two players in the NCAA this season have over 800 yards rushing and 200 yards receiving, and they are both members of the North Carolina backfield, Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. They have nearly the same amount of carries, and each averages at least seven yards per carry, but it is Williams who has found the endzone at a far greater rate, rushing for 15 touchdowns on the season compared to Carter who has 4. Williams leads the NCAA with 18 total scores, though Carter has been able to contribute as well of late with touchdowns in four straight games.
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SAM THE MAN
One of the main reasons that Mack Brown has been able to make the turnaround happen in Chapel Hill has been the play of his top recruit, quarterback Sam Howell. The sophomore signal-caller has thrown for 23 touchdowns compared to just only six interceptions while also contributing an additional three scores on the ground. Howell has been especially efficient during his time with the Tar Heels, putting up an impressive 61-13 TD/INT ratio to start his college career, and this shows on the statistical leaderboard as well as he is currently tops in the conference in quarterback rating and second in completion percentage.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Another positive part of Howell’s game is his ability to get multiple people involved, with eight different North Carolina players having caught a touchdown pass this season and eight also posting double-digit receptions. Wideout Dyami Brown is the best of the bunch on the team and also possibly in the conference, as he leads in both receiving yards (829) and touchdown catches (8) while tying for fifth in the ACC in receptions with 45. After Brown, Dazz Newsome is Howell’s second favorite target and has been especially effective of late, with 16 catches for 244 yards and three scores over his past three games. With Howell, Williams, Carter, Brown, and Newson, the North Carolina offense will bring plenty of challenges for an Irish defense that has stepped up to the task thus far this season, ranking 9th in yards allowed, 4th against the rush, and 11th in scoring.
Notre Dame enters the week with their quarterback Ian Book playing some of the best football of his career. He has thrown for over 280 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2018 and is currently on a streak of seven straight games without an interception. Book also has a clear ability to make plays with his feet with six rushing touchdowns on the season, which is a skill that could prove to be especially valuable this week against a UNC defense that has allowed nine rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks over their past six losses.
BANGED UP BACKFIELD
The Irish offense has been paced by their running game all season, which now ranks 14th in the country with an average of 233.5 rushing yards per game. They face health-related questions marks this week, though with lead back Kryen Williams questionable to play due to a shoulder injury suffered against Boston College that limited him to just nine carries in the game. C’Bo Flemister was also knocked out of the BC game with an injury, though his appears to be less severe, and he is currently expected to play this weekend as of Monday. Things will be that much more difficult for whoever ends up getting the call for the Irish backfield, as their starting offensive line was hit hard as well with center Jarrett Patterson lost for the season due to a foot injury along and right guard Tommy Kraemer already ruled out thanks to an Appendix issue.
IRISH AIR ATTACK
Thanks to the Notre Dame running game’s issues, the offense will likely rely heavily on Book to lead the way. Especially considering UNC’s mediocre defense has been at their worst defending quarterbacks, ranking 97th in passing yards allowed per game and a disappointing 68th in scoring. Wide receivers Javon McKinley, Ben Skowronek, and Avery Davis, along with tight end Michael Mayer have been the most relied upon targets for Book this season. All should expect to see more attention than usual, especially if Kryen Williams ends up being unavailable to play.
THE FINAL DECISION
One glaring issue that Notre Dame has had under head coach Brian Kelly is their ability to win against quality components away from South Bend. The Irish have gone just 1-11 over their last 12 road games against ranked teams and now have to travel with question marks on offense looking to trade points against a stacked Tar Heel roster highlighted by a quarterback star in the making (Sam Howell), along with a dynamic duo of running backs (Javonte Williams, Michael Carter) and receivers (Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome). I believe the difference in the game, though, will be with the defenses, a category that Notre Dame has a decided advantage in and after 60 minutes of play will end up turning the scales in their favor enough to give them a rare road win and cover against a ranked opponent.
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