Notre Dame will try to build on its first win of the season when it travels to North Carolina on Saturday afternoon. The Fighting Irish finally picked up a win under first-year head coach Marcus Freeman last week, sneaking past Cal at home. North Carolina is coming off consecutive road wins at Appalachian State and Georgia State in its last two games.
Notre Dame hangs on for Freeman's first winNotre Dame could be feeling a lot worse about itself if it had come up short against Cal last week, but Freeman was able to record his first win since taking over as head coach. The Fighting Irish played a competitive game at No. 2 Ohio State in their season opener before losing to Marshall in one of the biggest upsets in school history in Week 2. They trailed Cal 17-14 in the fourth quarter last week before scoring 10 points in a six-minute stretch to take the lead. Cal had a chance to tie things up on the final play, but it was unable to come up with a catch in the end zone.
The Fighting Irish will now hit the road for the second time this season before facing No. 19 BYU after a bye week. Quarterback Drew Pyne completed 17 of 23 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns against Cal, while running backs Audric Estime and Chris Tyree combined for 140 rushing yards on 35 carries, good for an average of four yards per attempt. Notre Dame has dominated North Carolina historically, going 20-2 in the all-time series. The Fighting Irish are on a four-game winning streak in the series, which started with a win in 2014. They are facing a North Carolina defense that is No. 119 out of 131 FBS teams, allowing 37.7 points per game.
North Carolina leaning on strong offenseNorth Carolina is returning home after a pair of road games against Group of Five schools. The Tar Heels opened their road trip with a 63-61 win over Appalachian State, holding on for the win despite allowing 40 points in the fourth quarter. They followed it up with a 35-28 win at Georgia State last week, pushing the 7-point spread in the process. Their offense has been among the best in the country so far, leading the ACC with 51.3 points per game and ranking fourth nationally. Redshirt freshman quarterback Drake Maye has thrown for 930 yards and 11 touchdowns, which is tied for the FBS lead.
He is facing a Notre Dame defense that held Cal to a 4 of 15 mark on third down conversions and 1 of 3 on fourth down. Maye will certainly need some support from the North Carolina rushing attack on Saturday afternoon, which is led by running back Omarion Hampton. He has rushed 38 times for 228 yards and five touchdowns, while Maye has added 26 carries for 146 yards and a score. It has been a very balanced passing attack, with six receivers posting between 100 and 175 receiving yards. North Carolina has won eight of its last nine home games.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
I like Freeman as a head coach, but I am not ready to back Notre Dame in a big road game just yet. The Fighting Irish barely escaped with a win against Cal at home last week, despite being very motivated following their loss to Marshall. They have multiple things that need to be corrected, and a game against a high-scoring team is not the time to fix those issues. North Carolina has one of the best attacks in the country and is comfortable playing at home—I think the home-field advantage is even more important than normal given the mindset of both teams. Notre Dame could very well implode mentally as soon as the Tar Heels score a few quick touchdowns.
Full-Game Total Pick
I am certainly not going to take the under in a game where I like North Carolina to cover. The Tar Heels have been lighting up the scoreboard this season and have gone over the total in four of their last five games dating back to last season. Their offense was expected to take a step back this year after losing their star quarterback, but Maye has stepped up and done a tremendous job so far. Marshall was able to score 21 points against Notre Dame’s defense, so I am not confident in that unit. North Carolina’s defense is awful, making the over look like the best bet in this game.