North Carolina is led by 34-year veteran head coach Mac Brown. They are 3-0, and in typical ACC scheduling protocol the week before you play Notre Dame, they were idle last week. They own victories over Florida A & M, Appalachian State and Georgia State.
They score a lot of points, they give up a lot of points. The Tar Heels average 51.3 points per-game, 4th best nationally. On the other side, they give up 37.7 points per-game, and that number ranks near the other extreme at 119th in the country.
A trio of freshman are leading the charge of a high-powered offense.
Leading the way at quarterback is 6-4, 220 pound redshirt freshman Drake Maye. Maye has already this season tossed 11 touchdown passes-tied for most in the country and has thrown for 930 yards. He did throw one interception, that came in the Georgia State game. A threat to tuck it and run, Maye has gained 146 yards on 26 carries. He has been sacked six times.
Maye likes to spread the ball out. Seven different receivers have seven or more receptions. His top target thus far has been 6-1 freshman Kobe Paysour. Paysour has 14 grabs good for 172 yards and 2 TDs. A pair of tight ends, Kamari Morales and Byson Nesbit have combined for 17 catches, 251 yards and 4 TDs. Junior wide receiver, Josh Downs, who had a big season a year ago was injured week one, but will be available this week.
The Heels leading runner, Omarion Hampton, rounds out the freshman trio. Hampton is a 220-pound six-footer who has scored 5 TDs while running for 228 yards on 38 carries, that is an even 6.0 yards per carry.
In contrast to their high scoring offense, North Carolina does play defense, just not particularly well. How bad has their defense been? Heck, they gave up 40 points in one quarter to Appalachian State!
A quick survey of national defensive rankings shows the Tar Heels rank near the bottom in many defensive categories: Passing yardage allowed 112th, Completion percentage allowed 121st, Scoring defense 119th, Total Defense 123rd, Rushing Defense 112th, Passing efficiency defense 126th, etc. You get the picture.
Defense in fact has been an issue in Chapel Hill for some time as the Irish over their last four meetings with NC, going back to 2014, have scored an average just a shade under 40 points, all of them wins.
Mac Brown brought in a new defensive coordinator this year in veteran coach Gene Chizek but so far that has not paid dividends. Two of the better players Chizek has to work with are last year’s leading tackler, linebacker Cedric Gray and cornerback Storm Duck. Duck is talented but has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons.
It is also worth noting that the Tar Heels are among the most heavily penalized teams in the nation.
North Carolina’s ability to score in buckets means this one won’t be over anytime early. Notre Dame will challenge North Carolina with easily the best defense they have seen this year, and the Irish are way over due for some takeaways. On the other side of the ball, North Carolina is vulnerable and the baby steps forward made by the Irish in the run game last week should pay just enough dividends to keep this one out of the track meet category.
The Tar Heels are 1 point favorites, Over/Under: is 56.5
The Fighting Irish Preview Prediction: ND 34 North Carolina 30
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