North Carolina Preview

For just the second time in 42 years the Fighting Irish will be invading Chapel Hill for a football game. During the 50’s and 60’s Notre Dame had a nice little rivalry with the Tar Heels and overall have dominated the series. The 2006 game that resumed the series for the first time since 1975 was one of the more satisfying wins of the Weis era.

Notre Dame (-14.5) at North Carolina

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Kenan Memorial Stadium
Date: Saturday, October 7, 2017
Time: 3:30 PM ET
Television: ABC
Series: 17-2-0 Notre Dame

The return game at Kenan Memorial two years later was peak bad Charlie Weis teams. The Irish looked good in the first half, witnessed a Clausen pick-6 to start the second half, and blew a comfortable lead in a deflating loss.

It’s worth noting that both of Notre Dame’s losses in this series have come inside Kenan Memorial Stadium.

3 Matchups to Watch

Chazz Surratt vs. Third Down Passing

Maybe Zaire was never truly interested but it was amazing to watch North Carolina welcome LSU grad transfer Brandon Harris to Chapel Hill and believe he’d actually play well at quarterback. He’s lasted 2 games with the Heels before they gave up (he came in last week and threw a pick on his first attempt before sitting back down) and decided to invest in the future of redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt.

Surratt is a lefty (maybe they didn’t want competing lefties with Zaire!??) so he has that going for him. However, he takes two steps backwards for spelling his name “Chazz.”

Actually, he started out brightly this season going 46 of 66 (66.6%) for 588 yards with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions through the first 3 weeks. The last 2 games he’s hit a wall going 35 of 62 (56.4%) for 400 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. On the season, UNC is the second worst Power 5 team in third down conversions and over the last 2 weeks Surratt has gone 9 of 20 for 37 yards with only 4 conversions, plus 4 sacks, and a pick six.

He’s averaging 4 yards per completion on 3rd down over the last 2 games! 4 yards! It suddenly makes sense why running back Jordan Brown leads the team with 20 receptions.

North Carolina’s Front Seven Havoc vs. Notre Dame’s O-Line

The Tar Heels traditionally have an athletic and disruptive defensive line, and while they have a lot of injuries, their big boys up front have been in decent shape. They do have some defensive problems this year and they’ve been pretty average at creating sacks and tackles for loss.

Argyle on the sideline borders looking sharp.

A massive key to victory for North Carolina is if they create just enough havoc on defense to disrupt Notre Dame’s run game and hope the Irish bend-but-don’t-break defense gets a little too bend-but-don’t breaky and cracks a couple times in key moments.

Ian Book vs. Pressure

I’ll talk more about Book below. Suffice to say he could be taking a big step in his career this weekend. Maybe he never starts again for the Irish, or maybe this is just the beginning of a surprising career.

2 Stats to Consider

4.02 YPC

The Heels’ running game in 2015 was phenomenal as their top 5 rushers all averaged at least 6 yards per carry and the team finished 3rd nationally in overall average. Last year’s ground game took a back seat to the Mitch Trubisky show at quarterback and gained almost 1,200 fewer yards than 2015.

This year, without Elijah Hood (left early for the NFL, he’s on the Raiders practice squad) and T.J. Logan things are starting over in the backfield and it hasn’t been pretty. Although the injuries haven’t ravaged the offensive line either, the Heels had tremendous turnover at this position over the last 2 years and seem to be paying the price today as younger guys are inserted and former 4th and 5th best starters are struggling to become the top linemen on the team.

11 Attempts on 4th Down

Get ready for North Carolina to annoy us all while keeping their offense on the field! They already have 11 attempts on 4th down (zero attempts against Old Dominion so basically averaging almost 3 attempts per game against real competition) and they’ve converted 7 times.

1 Prediction

As Notre Dame found out last year college football comes at you fast. North Carolina now understands that feeling as they’ve sunk quickly in the college football world this season.

This is Larry Fedora’s 6th season in Chapel Hill and it doesn’t seem that long ago that the Heels were trying their best to upset Clemson in the ACC Championship. Before this fall, Fedora had gone 19-8 (13-3 in league play) over 2015-16 while displaying some efficient and productive offenses. He’s had some decent defenses and a couple not-so-good defenses, but most of the time he’s had good enough offenses to make up for any problems.

So far in 2017, the offense hasn’t been able to keep things afloat.

Now, with a 1-4 start people are starting to scrutinize and wonder just how strong of shape this UNC program is in right now and for the future. Even over that 19-8 run they played no ranked teams within their 11-game win streak and were 2-4 overall against ranked teams. They’ve also lost their last 3 bowl games and only finished ranked once in Fedora’s tenure.

Also, in case you haven’t heard they are dealing with quite the injury problem. The significant players not suiting up tomorrow:

Austin Proehl, WR – Leading receiver for 2017 (270 yards)
Thomas Jackson, WR – Two-deep receiver with 283 career yards
Carl Tucker, TE – Co-starter with 230 career receiving yards
William Sweet, OT – Starting tackle who played decent minutes as a freshman in 2016
Tyler Powell, DL – Backup end with 4.5 career tackles for loss
Andre Smith, LB – Starting middle linebacker with 187 career tackles
Stanton Truitt, TB – Auburn grad transfer with 228 career rushing yards
Tommy Hatton, OL – Played extensively last year and was in the mix at guard this year
Corey Bell Jr., CB – Two-deep corner with 21 career tackles

That’s only one missed defensive starter from 7 returning a year ago but the loss of retiring DC Gene Chizik and promotion of linebackers coach John Papuchis has provided some bumps in the road. It’s the offense–now down to just 3 starters from 2016–that is searching for new playmakers.

So, the biggest question for Notre Dame is if Brandon Wimbush will play on Saturday.

 

My odds are as follows:

60% Book starts
20% Wimbush starts
20% Wimbush starts but plays minimally

If this was your average starter the history suggests with Kelly that A) Wimbush’s injury is anywhere from 20% to 60% worse than he’s letting on and if A is true then B) Wimbush isn’t playing this weekend. Yet, we’re talking about the quarterback and Wimbush at least suited up for practice in some capacity on Thursday. If the bye week wasn’t a couple days away I think maybe, just maybe you test Wimbush’s foot at Carolina.

If Book gets the start and there’s no chance of Wimbush playing I’m pulling back on the reins a little bit. Not only because of the unknown of Book becoming The Guy for a game but also because they are planning on burning C.J. Holmes’ redshirt this weekend which also signals at least 2 running backs aren’t fully healthy enough to play their normal roles.

Being able to run the ball 80% of the time and winning comfortably by 2 scores or more sounds great, I’m just not quite there with this program. I’m actually secure with the Irish defense in this game given North Carolina’s struggles on offense I’m just not convinced this is as much of a cakewalk as a two touchdown spread suggests. I’m going to invoke the thought of if you told me before the season that Notre Dame would be favored by 14.5 points with Ian Book playing quarterback I’d think that’s crazy.

Now, we seem much better than expected, North Carolina a little worse, and I’m not sure Vegas has re-calibrated completely from Wimbush possibly not playing at all.  Or maybe Vegas isn’t even phased by the #BookClub and we’ll have ourselves quite the interesting bye week following another easy victory.

  • WINNER: Notre Dame 27 North Carolina 21
  • VS. SPREAD (-14.5): North Carolina
  • OVER/UNDER (60.5): Under
  • SPECIAL, BOOK PASS YARDS (156.5): Over
By | 2018-05-09T22:25:53+00:00 October 5th, 2017|Football|43 Comments

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Russell KnoxPublius2010Joe Schuellertlndmairishblue Recent comment authors
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nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Given his relatively low completion percentage, can we say that Surratt’s passing style is not pin-pointillist?

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

My impression is that he is not the answer for UNC. He seems like he’d leave early for that NFL Monet.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Oh wow y’all are smashing this

KG
KG

He’s certainly not Degas at quarterback, despite what Manet people thought.

idocd
idocd

He should improve as the Cezanne progresses. It’d be unusual if he doesn’t improve…downright Pissarro.

KG
KG

I blame the QB coaching. His throwing motion is Toulouse, and needs to get back on Lautrec.

idocd
idocd

We may be in trouble from an RB health perspective…I expect to see “Charles Rennie” McIntosh early and often tomorrow.

KG
KG

Yeah, that’s a Sérusier problem. I hope we can play up to a high Laval. Otherwise, we’ll all have that “here we Gauguin” feeling.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

I’ll wish the young man well as long as he doesn’t make me Scream on Saturday. Put that in a bun and Munch on it.

KG
KG

Let’s hope we don’t end up with that Post (game) Impression. I wouldn’t want you go van Gogh insane.

DrIck
DrIck

Thomas Kinkade, guys! (I went to public school)

KG
KG

Still better than the USC Art History program:

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irishblue
irishblue

Hopefully UNC is dead on arrival. Someone may need to call a more Titian.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I’m not going to lie; I’ve been sitting on this one all week. I’m pleased people like it.

Come for the complaints about BK; stay for the art puns.

More Noise
More Noise

Hey you all – I gotta say, as the France guy on the board, you collectively have put me to shame. Sorry I missed this all, I was flying across the pond and just got in to DC. Totally made me laugh, which I rarely do with jeux de mots.
Only on 18 Stripes!

Clearwall
Clearwall
MikeyB
MikeyB

Man, I’m interested to see how Kelly handles the QB situation. Does he really want to give Ian Book his first career start on the road? On the other hand, if you start with Wimbush for 3 or 4 series and he bombs, you might be putting Book in on the road down 1 or 2 scores; also less than ideal.

If Adams and Dex were both fully healthy, I’d probably just start Book. Lots of runs with the occasional play action pass should be plenty to beat UNC. But who knows how healthy any of the running backs really are. It’s going to be very interesting to see how Kelly manages this.

Hitman
Hitman

I really hope we can rest BW going into the bye week and have him 100% for USC.

Book will most likely play light out and look great. What would a Notre Dame season be without some type of QB controversy?

KG
KG

Unless Book sets a completion percentage record and throws for 350+ yards and 4 TDs, I doubt anyone seriously thinks he’s got a shot to unseat Wimbush.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Yeah, I’d assume nobody who actually matters (i.e. the coaches and players) would think there’s a controversy. Some of the dumber fans probably would start stirring things up, as well as ESPN, but I think the program itself would be absolutely ready to go into the USC game 100% behind Wimbush.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

I’m sorry guys, but Wimbush looked garbage against tMOSU as a passer. By contrast Book looked ok and also looked good with his legs. Cam we not envision a scenario in which Book completes a high percentage and makes plays with his legs and gives the coaching staff something to think about? Wimbush is very dynamic with his legs, but if he’s not accurate with his arm and Book is, what does Wimbush bring over and above Book, except a higher theoretical ceiling? And I’m not saying Book is a more accurate passer. We don’t have an adequate data set to make that conclusion. But if Book completes 65+%, does a good job distributing the ball to playmakers, and makes plays with his legs too, I don’t think the decision in favor of Wimbush is as easy as y’all think.

KG
KG

Wimbush was pretty garbage as a passer. But I have it on high authority that he’s just a new starter, and really just needs time and patience, he’ll put it all together real soon, just wait.

But in all seriousness, as I said above, the scenario for it to be a serious conversation is Book completing a high percentage (65% works), throwing 350 and 4 TDs, or thereabouts. He’d have to outweigh Wimbush’s legs, and therefore give the coaching staff the impression that he might contribute more to a win. Being able to run a bit would help. But I don’t think that’s where this will go. So do I see a scenario? Sure. Do I think it’ll get there? No.

tlndma
tlndma

It might not be a good thing if Book is throwing the ball enough to gain 350 yds. and for 4 TDs.

KG
KG

You’re right, it’d probably be a horrible thing.

MDIRISH
MDIRISH

Count me among the dumber fans.

KG
KG

At least we’ve got the perfect QB coach to help a less heralded, less athletic QB succeed!

Dmac4real
Dmac4real

Criminally underliked.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

Too funny!

DCIrish84
DCIrish84

I think we are looking at the Book/Wimbush thing backwards. If Wimbush is really 50/50, you sit him unless needed. If Book wins the game, great. If he stumbles or the offense stalls, then you bring in Wimbush to rescue things.

spider-man
spider-man

I agree. If Wimbush is banged up, try and rest him unless Book looks really bad. But, with ND’s solid rushing game, UNC’s injuries and poor defensive showing so far, and the fact that Book has gained some experience in a few games this year, I am okay with them giving him the start. Mix in some QB runs (which he has shown he can handle) with some downfield throws to Finke – if that’s the gameplan, the offense should be fine.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

https://twitter.com/FiveThirtyEight/status/916359902603251712

Not that this really matters much this year – I would think that 9% is actually pretty optimistic w/r/t our odds of winning out – but there’s going to be some year that this phenomenon is going to matter. It almost did in 2015, where we almost assuredly would not have gotten into the playoff if Stanford missed that last kick.

irish_bandit_10
irish_bandit_10

I think this also depends a lot on Georgia’s success. If both ND and Georgia were to win out, and Georgia beat Alabama by more than 1 point in the SECCG, I’d have to think ND gets into the playoff. But ND isn’t going to win out this year, so this is an exercise in futility.

DrIck
DrIck

I’d be very willing to wager that IF UGA beats Bama in the SECCG, it will be by NO LESS than 1 point. Mark it, Donny.

irish_bandit_10
irish_bandit_10

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nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Interestingly, FiveThirtyEight’s model does not think so. If you plug in having ND and Georgia win out, which necessarily requires a Bama loss (either to Auburn or UGA, most likely), Alabama has – according to FiveThirtyEight – better odds of making the playoff than ND (has Bama at 34% makes playoff while ND has 26%). I’m not sure I buy that, but I could see the scenario where Bama loses to Auburn close, who loses close to UGA, and then Bama and UGA both get in over ND. I don’t think it’s realistic that Bama could lose the SECCG and get in, almost under any scenario (I think, all other things being equal, 2-loss conference champions are more likely to get in than a team that just lost its championship game, though that has yet to be tested).

In any case, as I think we agree, this is all very hypothetical and is exceedingly unlikely to play out.

dpet
dpet

We wouldn’t have gotten in if we beat Stanford and that would’ve infuriated me. Iowa and Michigan St were both fools gold that year as we saw in their Bowl games and the Iowa/Michigan St game should not have been the de facto playoff game for the 4th playoff spot, the Notre Dame/Stanford game should’ve been. They have to get a Big Ten team in the playoff though no matter what. It was cool the last 2 years seeing the Big Ten get embarrassed in the last 2 playoffs.

Publius2010
Publius2010

This is a reminder that the Big 10 hasn’t scored in a playoff game since Ohio State won the whole thing

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

While I think it makes some sense to think that if the Georgia loss is a great loss (someone who also makes the playoffs) then that should help our chances. But I’m skeptical. What seems necessary for a team to make it with one loss is to have it be one team that is not quite in the running for the playoffs and yet it not be a really bad loss. What needs to offset the loss then are some really top wins. It’s not good enough to just have the best loss (and it hurts if you are really competing with that team for a playoff position) but you need the top wins. With our schedule even if we win out we don’t have the wins. We would have been better off beating Georgia (who for arguments sake ends up winning the SEC) and losing to some lesser top 25-30 team I think (better off i.e. as a 1 loss team). In our current state we probably need some two loss teams to be in the hunt at the end for us to leap one of them or have a lot of the teams on our schedule win out (and lose to us).

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I think that is all spot-on. It seems that the committee cares about (1) how strongly they perceive your conference and (2) your best wins. Quality (or lack thereof) of loss doesn’t matter much, so long as you lost to a top ~35-40 team (i.e., a non-embarrassing loss).

irish_bandit_10
irish_bandit_10

I absolutely agree it would have been better to beat Georgia. But as it stands, it’s extremely unlikely that there are 4 undefeated conference champs at the end of the season (has that ever happened?) So the question will come down to whether ND has more quality wins than 1-loss conference champs. It’s extremely unlikely, but it’s possible.

Again, I think ND goes 9-3 this year and we can save playoff discussions for after the win vs. Michigan next year.

KG
KG

Ugh. Is it too late to cancel that game?

Joe Schueller

Any Irish fans and 18S readers in town for the UNC game, hit me up @JoeSchuND on twitter. Stop by our tailgater, grab a cold one, and say hi.

Publius2010
Publius2010

So Brandon Harris flamed out at UNC too? Ouch. I remember reading Bruce Feldman’s “The QB” in which all the Elite 11 and quarterback whisperer types where hyping him through the roof, which just goes to show that the George Whitfield’s and Trent Dilfer’s of the world are snake oil salesmen.