Notre Dame-North Carolina: Do Irish move to 2-2?

·6 min read

Notre Dame hasn’t gotten off to the start they wanted to the 2022 season but getting to .500 after starting 0-2 would be a positive way to end September.  Can they pull it off as they travel to unbeaten North Carolina is the question as the Tar Heels feature a high powered offense but struggle quite a bit to get stops.

Can Drew Pyne push the ball downfield to punish that defense?  Can the running game take another step after a better showing last week against Cal?  And will Notre Dame’s defense slow down the North Carolina offense like they’ve been able to do the last couple of seasons?

Here is what the Fighting Irish Wire staff sees happening this Saturday in Chapel Hill.

Geoffrey Clark (1-2):

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The Irish will win this if for no other reason than they’ve beaten the Tar Heels two years in a row, and the Heels haven’t done well coming off bye weeks lately, but I suppose I can elaborate a little more. Drake Maye has done a great job finding each of his receivers early and often, and he’ll get a lot of help this week with the return of Josh Downs. Still, the Irish have a defense built to shut down most offenses in college football, and we’d like to think (hope) that the unit learned its lesson after the loss to Marshall. It won’t be easy, especially with Drew Pyne still struggling to find his footing under center after Tyler Buchner’s season-ending injury forced him into the starting role, but he’ll be able to find enough holes in the Heels’ subpar defense and just squeak out a victory.

Notre Dame 24, North Carolina 21

Michael Chen (2-1):

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The Irish defense basically stopped the number one current offense in the country in week one, but they had the advantage of having a whole off-season to prepare for the Buckeyes. Another top offense is on the opposing sidelines in North Carolina but this is a bit different as teams have had time to analyze who Notre Dame is. They’re a mess, with their lone win coming last week in a nail-biter, down-to-the-wire win against a very mediocre Cal team. The Irish are going to have to match scores with the Tar Heels and I’m just not so sure they can do that. Yes, UNC will be facing their toughest test defensively of the young season but we all know what this Notre Dame offense is, bad. Until they show me more of a vertical passing attack along with the solid ground game shown last week, I just can’t buy into what they’re selling. The offense struggles once again and this week, unlike last, the defense wears down in the second-half which gives the Tar Heels enough room to grab a victory. 

North Carolina 31, Notre Dame 21

John Kennedy of Always Irish (2-1):

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure anyone knows just what to make of Notre Dame through 3 games. Progress was undoubtedly made last week vs Cal. Winning matters much in this regard. The big question is can this momentum be built on? UNC may present the perfect opportunity. While they sit at 3-0, the wins have been against 3 non P5 opponents and they have surrendered outrageous amounts of yardage through both the run and pass to all of them. Not to mention the 61 points App St. scored. If ever there was a week for Notre Dame to settle in offensively and lean on the run to help a young QB, this is the chance. On the flip side, new young UNC QB gunslinger, the kind Notre Dame fans would die for, Drake Maye is currently tied with OSU’s Stroud for most TD’s thrown, 11 and is 8th in the country in QBR. He gets his best WR target back off injury, Josh Downs to pair with true freshman standout Paysour and I fully expect him to make some “wow” throws. But he hasn’t faced a defense like Notre Dame and he will learn the hard way on a couple of key plays that this is a different level of talent. Notre Dame grinds this one out of the ground game, a few key mid range pass successes by Pyne offensively while the defense makes the plays it must have. The Irish limp gingerly to the bye to take a deep breath and re-evaluate themselves at a rocky 2-2.

Notre Dame 34, North Carolina 27

Watch John’s video discussing 3 confidences and 3 concerns for ND-UNC

Jeff Feyerer (2-1):

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In the course of three short weeks, Notre Dame has taken on three different personas nationally. First, they were the team who almost upset Ohio State on the road and proved they were a playoff contender. Then, they were a national disappointment after a shocking home loss to Marshall. Then they had to regroup after being punched in the mouth and losing their starting QB, which they did. Barely. In spite of all they’ve been through so far, I still tend to believe this team, even with Drew Pyne at QB, is closer to that Ohio State team than the other iterations. UNC has an explosive offensive that gets star wide receiver Josh Downs back this week, but I truly do believe the Irish are due for a solid all-around performance, even if it’s in Chapel Hill. 

Notre Dame 38 North Carolina 24

Nick Shepkowski (2-1):

USA TODAY NETWORK

I really didn’t feel good about this game coming out of last weekend, even with the victory but I just can’t get past North Carolina’s defense.  The Tar Heels have put up a world of hurt in terms of points this season but haven’t exactly played a murderer’s row of a schedule (Florida A&M, Appalachian State, Georgia State).  It’s still early in the season and the Notre Dame defense has been far from perfect this year but here is why I trust it against North Carolina:  They held Ohio State to just 395 yards in the opener, which is 254.5 yards fewer than they’ve averaged since.  I feel Notre Dame does that again to North Carolina but the offense does significantly more than it did against Ohio State to close September with a victory.

Notre Dame 27, North Carolina 20

Related Links:

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Behind Enemy Lines with Tar Heels Wire

Notre Dame releases depth chart for North Carolina game

Notre Dame-North Carolina series history

Notre Dame-North Carolina: best photos over the years

The Athletic’s two main reasons Notre Dame has struggled in 2022

 

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire