The 3-0 North Carolina Tar Heels will host 1-2 Notre Dame this Saturday in Chapel Hill, a big game to kickoff UNC’s Power 5 schedule the rest of the way.
UNC comes into this game on a four-game losing streak to the Fighting Irish. The last time North Carolina was victorious against Notre Dame was 2008 when the Tar Heels beat the Fighting Irish 29-24. .
This game has been UNC’s most anticipated all season, with a win boosting their chances of being ranked. However, Notre Dame’s slow start has dampened that reality and created an opportunity for North Carolina to show their unblemished record is no fluke.
Notre Dame’s biggest threat is their defense, one of the most talented in all college football. Junior defensive lineman, Howard Cross III, has been a force for the Fighting Irish, leading the team with 21 tackles. Their weakness is their offense, only averaging 18.3 points per game. To make it worse for Notre Dame’s offense, they are without quarterback Tyler Buchner, using sophomore Drew Pyne in his place.
Since replacing Buchner in the loss to Marshall, Pyne has completed 20 of 29 passes for 170 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Pyne’s target to watch is wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr., team leader in receiving yards with 152 on the season. Michael Mayer is the other threat, leading the team in receptions ( 15) and touchdowns (2).
Key to victory for UNC
Sep 10, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) throws a pass against the Georgia State Panthers in the first half at Center Parc Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
North Carolina’s biggest strength is their explosive offense led by quarterback Drake Maye. Maye has become a top QB with his versatility in the passing game. On the season, Maye has completed 72 for 97 passes for 930 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Maye-led offense has averaged 51.3 points per game which is the 6th best in the nation.
The biggest weakness for UNC is defense, which has been struggling all season despite the light schedule. However, this game will give North Carolina’s defense a chance to flourish with the fight Irish struggling offensive attack.
Something to watch
Aug 27, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;North Carolina Tar Heels receiver Josh Downs (11) catches a touchdown pass during the second half against the Florida A&M Rattlers at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Since week one, North Carolina has been without their top wide receiver, Josh Downs. On Saturday, Downs makes his highly anticipated return in a game where UNC will have to be at their best.
Downs went off in game one before his injury, snagging nine catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Since Downs’s injury, UNC has counted on wide receiver Kobe Paysour and tight end Bryson Nesbit to get the job done. Paysour is the leading wide out on the team with 172 yards on the season. It will be interesting to watch how explosive the pair will be.
What you need to know
WHAT? Notre Dame (1-2) at North Carolina (3-0)
WHEN? Saturday, Sept. 24th, 3:30 p.m. ET
WHERE? Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
TV? ESPN/ABC (Watch and stream the game live on ESPN+)
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
WEATHER? Precipitation: 0%, 76 degrees, Wind: 7mph
LINE? UNC -1.5
LAST MEETING? 2021, Notre Dame 44-34
ALL-TIME SERIES? ND leads 20-1
PREDICTION? UNC 31, Notre Dame 28