Notre Dame quietly worked its way back into the national polls on Monday and has a chance to make a big leap with strong performances over the next few games. The 22nd-ranked Fighting Irish will try to prove they belong among the nation’s elite when they visit North Carolina on Saturday.
Notre Dame’s lone loss was a 20-19 setback against Georgia in Week 2, and it has since crushed Boston College, Michigan State and Miami (Ohio) by a combined 139-55. “A standard has been set, and our preparation now is absolutely crucial,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly told reporters. “Week in and week out, we know how to do it, and now it’s applying that attention to the smallest details. We can’t let go of the rope now. (The players) know what they need to do on a day-to-day basis, and so it’s my job really to make sure that those smallest of details are looked at on a day-to-day basis, so we prepare our football team to play up to that standard.” The Tar Heels aren’t having much luck stopping teams this season and are allowing an average of 33 points through five games — four losses. North Carolina allowed 403 rushing yards in a 33-7 loss at Georgia Tech last week and enters the week ranked 113th in FBS with an average of 221.8 yards allowed on the ground.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Notre Dame -14.5
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (4-1): The Fighting Irish will attack that suspect Tar Heels run defense with an offense averaging 301.4 yards on the ground. Josh Adams is leading the charge with 658 yards and four TDs but quarterback Brandon Wimbush isn’t far behind with 402 yards on the ground and a team-best eight rushing scores. Notre Dame, which plays rival USC in its next game on Oct. 21, rushed for at least 300 yards on three different occasions already this season, including 333 in last week’s 52-17 walloping of Miami (Ohio).
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-4): The Tar Heels are dealing with a lot of new personnel on offense, including quarterback Chazz Surratt. The freshman beat out transfer Brandon Harris for the job of replacing No. 2 overall NFL pick Mitchell Trubisky and is completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 988 yards, six TDs and two interceptions. “I’m not thinking about down the road with him,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora told reporters of Surratt. “All I’m doing is trying to make sure we have a plan in place that he can execute for this week. That’s it. I’m not looking at long-term development. Long-term development will come over the long haul, over all the banked reps and the things that happen in a game.”
1. Notre Dame recorded each of its last three wins by 20 or more points for the first time since 2005.
2. Tar Heels LB Cole Holcomb leads the team with 43 tackles.
3. The Fighting Irish are 22-of-22 in the red zone this season.
PREDICTION: Notre Dame 42, North Carolina 24