Staff Predictions 2020: North Carolina Tar Heels
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, November 27, 2020
Hayden Adams — Sports Writer
Painful flashback time:
Last time Notre Dame had a non-coronavirus-induced bye week around exam time, they came out flat as could be and got embarrassed on the road at Michigan. Will history repeat itself this time around with a Black Friday road trip to Chapel Hill? Well, 1993 didn’t repeat itself against Boston College two weeks ago, and I think we can trust Brian Kelly to have his players ready to go after that disaster.
The absences of Jarrett Patterson and Tommy Kraemer along the offensive line hurt, but against a defense like UNC’s I wouldn’t waste time worrying over that. The team needed a rest after the Clemson game; that much was apparent against BC. The offense has been riding high and I would expect a similar level of play this time around. The Tar Heels will probably connect on a couple of big plays, but they don’t have the personnel to go four quarters against a physical and rejuvenated Irish team.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 35, UNC 28
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
I’m willing to admit that this isn’t your typical North Carolina football team. But they are still North Carolina for Christ’s sake, and Notre Dame shouldn’t be choking up a loss to them unless it’s on the hardwood. The Tar Heels have been impressive this year, but it’s been against some measly ACC competition, though the same could be said for most of Notre Dame’s games. UNC has been able to stick around during games that have been shootouts.
I just have too much confidence in this Irish defense to see the Tar Heels going the distance in this one. Sam Howell and his two star running backs behind him will put up good numbers but not good enough to get the job done against the Irish.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 32, UNC 24
Charlotte Edmonds — Senior Sports Writer
Notre Dame fans might be in for a wakeup call come Friday afternoon. This North Carolina offense is dynamic and can beat you on the run and from the pocket. Between Sam Howell at quarterback and the two-pronged running attack of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, Clark Lea will have his hands full trying to manage this offense. That said, even with all the offensive weapons at its disposal, Notre Dame is still the more talented and more balanced team. Whether in double overtime against Clemson or holding Louisville to one score on a day when the Irish offense struggled to connect, this Notre Dame defense has proven itself to be the backbone of this team’s success. Still, this offense is nothing to write off. As long as the defense contains the big plays that Howell and his offensive corps are bound to put up, Ian Book just has to do what he does best — manage the game. I don’t expect this game to ever be more than a two touchdown difference, so this will be a test of patience and trust. Are the Irish up for it?
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 44, UNC 30
Ellen Geyer — Senior Sports Writer
Last week’s bye could not have come at a better time. Hot off of a Clemson win and escaping a Boston College trap, the Irish had the chance to get some rest before a holiday road trip to Chapel Hill. North Carolina seems to be a fairly legitimate team this year, suffering close losses to Florida State and Virginia. The Tar Heels got lucky in avoiding Clemson during the regular season, and have crept back into the top 25 with their record of 6-2. However, Notre Dame has had plenty of time to game plan, and I anticipate the Irish will be able to take care of business fairly handily this week.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 43, UNC 27
Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer
Notre Dame’s defense has looked a little banged up in recent weeks, and it’ll be an immediate test coming out of their bye to see whether they can withstand a strong offense at UNC. Was their defense starting to slip, or were the cracks and struggles a result of fatigue, following a six-week stretch in which Notre Dame played six games, including a double-overtime battle against No. 1 Clemson? It’s gut-check time for the defense, while the offense will look to keep the good times rolling. I anticipate Notre Dame notching at least 40 points for the sixth time this season, while the defense is decent but not great in limiting the Tar Heels to “only” 27 points.