The Friday afternoon game on ABC at 3:30 PM ET is perhaps Notre Dame’s biggest test in their aspirations to play in the ACC championship game before earning a potential bid to the college football playoffs. The undefeated Fighting Irish travel to Chapel Hill to play a dangerous North Carolina team that is 6-2.
Notre Dame appears to control their destiny to become one of the four teams in the playoff after being ranked second in the first playoff poll this week. The Fighting Irish have a signature 47-40 victory over Clemson in double-overtime. Notre Dame has three regular-season games left on their schedule with potential opponents, including Miami (FL) and a rematch with the Tigers, as both teams have only one loss in conference play.
The Fighting Irish had last week off to prepare for this game after winning their eighth straight game by defeating Boston College on the road on November 14th by a 45-31 score as a 13-point favorite. Quarterback Ian Book completed 20 of 27 passes for 283 yards with three touchdown passes to lead his team to victory. The senior added another 85 rushing yards with a touchdown on the ground. Book is completing 62% of his passes this season for 1818 yards with 11 touchdown passes and just one interception. He has rushed for an additional 364 yards with six touchdowns. Running back Kyren Williams complements Book with a 97.1 rushing yards-per-game average. Notre Dame is scoring 37.6 points-per-game while averaging 462.8 yards-per-game.
The Fighting Irish defense is holding their opponents to only 16.6 points-per-game along with 304.1 yards-per-game. Those statistics rank eleventh and ninth in the nation. Notre Dame has won six of their eight games by at least two touchdowns. However, they have given up 71 combined points in their last two games (including the double-overtime nail-biter with Clemson).
North Carolina ranks 19th in the initial college football playoff rankings. They also had last week off after railing from a 21-point deficit on November 14th to defeat Wake Forest by a 59-53 score. The Tar Heels generated 742 yards of offense in the victory. Yet they have also allowed the Demon Deacons to gain 606 yards against their defense. North Carolina is tenth in the nation with a 43.1 points-per-game scoring average while averaging 563.4 yards-per-game. But the Tar Heels are allowing 30.8 points-per-game along with 413.6 yards-per-game.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Howell completed 32 of 45 passes for 550 yards with six touchdown passes and an interception in the comeback victory over Wake Forest. He also rushed for a touchdown. Howell is completing 67.7% of his passes for 2631 yards with 23 touchdown passes and six interceptions. He is averaging 328.9 passing yards-per-game and leads the ACC with 12 completions of over 40 yards. The running back duo of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams has combined for 1675 yards with 19 touchdowns.
North Carolina’s two losses were to Florida State and Virginia in games where they surrendered 31 and 44 points. Yet the Tar Heels have scored 105 combined points in their last two games while putting at least 41 points on the scoreboard in four straight games. With a 6-2 conference record, an upset victory over the Fighting Irish would put North Carolina in contention to play in the ACC championship game.
lists Notre Dame as a 6.5-point road favorite with the total set at 69.