Skimming a couple of the Notre Dame - UNC previews around the internet being written by rabid midwestern fans this week, I generally have one reaction. I don't recognize the Carolina team they're talking about at all. Which isn't surprising when you think about it, as the set of People Who Are Rabid Notre Dame Fans and the set of People Who Have Seen a UNC Football game presumably do not have many members in common. Still, there are reasons statistics don't give the whole story:
"North Carolina has thrived on running the ball." Technically, they haven't completely failed at running the ball as in years passed, and built up enough leads that they can run the clock down near the end. And occasionally one or the other back will break free for significant yards. But there's a reason the starting back is still up in the air; neither Greg Little or Shaun Draughns have wrested the job away.
"If Notre Dame controls the run and gets out of the blocks early, Sexton will have to throw; and that will be the Irish's advantage." Don't let the nine passes against UConn fool you. UNC's defense won that game before the Heels had finished establishing the ground game, and there wasn't much for Sexton to do. Also don't believe what I told you the last time these teams met:
Can your secondary catch? They've only got six interceptions on the year, but that's proof-of-concept, I suppose. They're going to enjoy UNC's passing attack, which is based around Joe Dailey, an extremely mobile and short yardage-thrower and Cam Sexton, a more traditional pocket-passer, alternately throwing lots of passes to the opposing team. Dailey has 7 picks in the four games he's started, and Sexton 8. The consensus is Dailey is the better tackler.
The past two weeks UNC has strictly alternated QB's, giving each two series under center before, swapping them out for the other. It can't be called a quarterback controversy, as no one is really arguing for one or the other. Should either player catch fire, they will almost certainly remain in the game until something goes wrong. The most likely way one will catch fire would involve arson of some sort however, and the perpertrator will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
(Man, I used to not suck at this blogging thing. Although Dailey was pretty much the sole quarterback that game, and had no interceptions, three touchdowns, and 213 yards. I don't know nothin'.) Anyway, Sexton has improved considerably, and not just in being able to scramble and identify the correct color jersey. It helps that the Heels have a plethora of good wideouts to throw to, as we've discussed. It's why you should be worried if the game does turn into a shootout - I find UNC's secondary to be considerably tougher than what I've seen out of South Bend.
Carolina fans, however, can get a decent idea of Notre Dame from the above linked reviews. The running game is small to nonexistent, the offensive line is much improved over last year, and the passing attack is how the Irish will try to take the game. It's a very similar situation to what the Heels saw against Rutgers a month back, although presumably with a much more talent on the other side of the field. It'll be interesting to see if Davis puts a similar defense on the field, eschewing the rush for a zone defense to confuse and intercept, as well as contain the short dump passes. Or maybe they'll just rely on Bruce Carter to get punt block number five. And six. And seven...