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Opponent Preview: Notre Dame

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They're pretty good at this whole football thing.

Jonathan Daniel

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are looking to contend for a spot in the college football playoff this year as they look to continue their unbeaten season against the Heels in South Bend. Notre Dame brings into the game the 3rd best scoring defense in the nation, by far the best the Heels will have faced so far. Notre Dame also has a dynamic passer in Everett Golson and will look to put the game away early so the team can prepare for the game of their season, a trip to Tallahassee next week.

The Notre Dame offense centers around the quarterback Golson and a solid run game. On the year Golson has thrown for 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions all season, Golson has also run in four scores. One thing to look out for is that Golson has thrown all of his three picks in the past two games, the Heels may be able to intercept a few passes on Saturday to at least make the game more interesting. Golson's favorite target is William Fuller, who leads the team in all receiving categories with 28 receptions for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns. The passing attack is not just centered on Fuller, there are five other receivers on the roster with more than ten catches and 100 total receiving yards this season.

The Fighting Irish's running backs are consistent but not particularly explosive. Notre Dame is truly a team that runs by committee, they are yet to have a 100 yard rusher yet this season. Greg Bryant, Cam McDaniel, and Tarean Folston all split carries, none of them average more than ten per game and none of them average more than 5 yards per carry. The main theme of the offense for Notre Dame is consistency. They consistently move the ball when they need to and score enough points to win. The Heels will be the weakest defense they will have faced this year and that may give them a chance to try new looks and explore their full offensive capabilities.

The real strength of Notre Dame is their defense. This is a team that turned the ball over five times against Syracuse but still limited the Orange to 15 total points (6 of which were an interception return, not the defense's fault). The defense is for real, and may be one of the best units in the entire country and will certainly be the best the Heels will face all year long. The Fighting Irish own the line of scrimmage on defense. Against Stanford, they limited the Cardinal to 1.5 yards per carry and they haven't allowed more than 4.5 yards per carry in any one game this year. They have also only allowed three rushing touchdowns all year. Once the run game is shut down the secondary are ball hawks. As a unit, the Notre Dame defense has intercepted 8 passes through 5 games. The defense is a complete unit and the special teams are similar, having not given up a special teams touchdown all year. This is a complete football team, and in a hostile environment, the Heels will need to play the game of the season to win.

Weekly Assignments:

Move the ball on offense

While it is not expected that the Heels win this game or even score a lot of points, Larry Fedora markets himself as an offensive coach. This game is a good chance for him to prove that his system can work. The Heels have good receivers in Quinshad Davis, Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer and theoretically Fedora's spread offense should work a least a bit. This is a chance to see how they all do against top competition. On National TV, this would be a great chance for potential recruits to see what dynamic players can do in UNC's system so the offense should really show up for this game. It would also be nice to see some running backs get involved with at least limited success. So far this season no one outside of Marquise Williams has run the ball effectively. That is not likely to change this game but if someone, say Elijah Hood, could have 10 carries for 60-70 yards, that would at least be an encouraging sign.

Coaching

This year's team has felt both over and under coached. The over-coaching is mainly seen by playing Mitch Trubisky every third series until he messes up and calling weird plays that do not fit the situation. Additionally, the Heels seem under-coached in that there are still a ton of penalties. This is definitely a game where the Heels need to not beat themselves and not have the coaching staff make it harder to win. It would also be nice to see Ryan Switzer on some kickoff returns.

High Defense/Special Team Fantasy Points

This is where the Heels have their best chance at an upset. If the Heels can turn Notre Dame over and score off those turnovers they might be able to squeak out a win in the 28-24 range. This would also require some Ryan Switzer punt return magic and countless other breaks to go UNC's way. However, it is not impossible, Golson has been shakier recently and Switzer remains one of the most dynamic punt returners in the country. Although, Switzer recently does seem to be trying a little too hard to make something out of nothing, he needs to fair catch more punts.

All told, a win in this game for the Heels is very unlikely but a respectable performance in a loss would be an encouraging sign for the Heels' bowl chances down the road.