Site Predictions: ND/UNC

Staff and moderator predictions for this week's matchup between the Irish and the Tar Heels.

Tim O'Malley -- Publisher

Identified early last summer as my trap game of 2014, the game's slotting/situation played out ideally to that end:

5-0 Notre Dame, fresh off a bruising, emotional, last-minute victory over Stanford ascends to No. 5 nationally, one week away from a date at undefeated, No. 1 defending champion Florida State.

It's a scenario that would challenge the focus of any football program, much less a youth-filled group such as Brian Kelly's Irish.

But North Carolina, to date, has not cooperated with the the trap scenario. Defense-less. Rudderless. Incapable of the upset?

I doubt the latter, but I don't think the Tar Heels have 60 minutes in them, either.

I expect a sleepy crowd, an offense still trying to put together a complete game for the first time since the season-opener, and a defense that's not quite as lathered up as in game's past.

With my weekly "Who, and What, to Watch?" preview column forthcoming, final score, Notre Dame 37 Syracuse 20

Anna Hickey -- Recruiting Reporter

North Carolina is in a downward spiral, and Notre Dame won’t give them much to build upon this week. The Tar Heels’ offensive line will be no match for Notre Dame’s front seven, and despite Marquise Williams’ ability to scramble, UNC will struggle mightily to move the ball downfield. On the flip side of scrimmage, Notre Dame and Everett Golson should have little to no issues moving the ball against a unit with glaring weaknesses from start to finish. Notre Dame 32 UNC 10

SeattleNDFan -- Moderator

Coaching makes all the difference in the world and no one knows that better than Notre Dame fans. The problem with UNC appears to go right to the top: head coach Larry Fedora, despite his resounding success at previous stops in his career. The lack of being on the same page with his players has resulted in a 2014 team that resembles Michigan's 2014 team in many ways, including lack of production on the field despite multi recruiting stars among his on-field talent. This is an unmotivated, underperforming, internally splintered team by all accounts.

2-3 North Carolina gave up 29 points to Liberty, 50 to Clemson and 70 to East Carolina. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will not hesitate to try and make a beauty pageant statement against that defense and so I expect to see the high total point for the season for Notre Dame this weekend.

Notre Dame can certainly lose this game, but it would be due to lack of execution and playing down to their opponents level. UNC has speed and athletes including a dual threat QB and should be able to score on the Irish, but it won't be enough to keep up with what the Tar Heels defense will almost certainly surrender.
Notre Dame 51 North Carolina 17

Amruther24 -- Moderator

The UNC game has been looming as a trap since the 2014 schedule was released. The fear that it was a trap on heightened in the wake of their late season surge in 2013 and rumblings of them being dark horse favorites to win their division leading up to the 2014 season. Well, we're five games in and UNC looks like anything but a good team right now. Of course, that only makes them a more dangerous trap.

The good news is that their supposed best unit, the offense, is a complete mess. It's an understatement at this point to say that the ascension of Notre Dame's defense has been a surprise. They are currently -- without doubt --the best unit that Notre Dame fields each week. They are not only consistent, but they're getting better with each game.

On the other side of the ball, UNC's defense is just awful. They were viewed as the major weakness of the program heading into the season and its come to fruition. Notre Dame's offense needs to use this opportunity to find some rhythm and consistency in both the running and passing games. 

The Irish offense is capable of dropping 70 points on UNC if they are in rhythm, but I just don't see that happening. However, I do think they're capable of playing three relatively consistent offensive quarters. I'm just not sure if those will be consecutive quarters. I think Notre Dame pulls away on the scoreboard in the 4th quarter, but the ultimate result of the game will never be in doubt. Notre Dame 41 UNC 20 ?

GaviND -- Moderator

After a thrilling victory against Stanford last Saturday afternoon, the Irish get back to the grind tomorrow against North Carolina.

For me, this game doesn't take a whole lot of analysis. Coming between games against Stanford and Florida State, the game gives the appearance of the ultimate trap game. Much like how our perceptions of Michigan changed once they started playing games, so too has my perception of UNC.

UNC is quite talented, but they're also very young. At the end of the day not a very good team and their defense has taken far more punches than its delivered.

Given the performance of their offense over the last two games, there is plenty of reason to focus on execution and limiting turnovers this week so I don't think the Irish will start looking towards FSU instead of focusing on the task at hand.

Irish win big: ND 52 UNC 13

KurzND -- Moderator

This is the one game Irish fans have long pointed out as a trap game. However I do not see it that way. North Carolina comes into the game with a defense that misses the bus every other weekend. They rack up penalties and have huge inconsistencies on the offensive line. Fine-tuning its running game and fixing a recent turnover issue is Notre Dame's current focus -- they won't overlook the Tar Heels.

Carolina has speed and talent on offense led by the dual-threat QB in Marquise Williams. However the O-Line has been injured and leaky. (No push and allowing five sacks versus Virginia Tech last week.) The Irish defense comes in sky-high after allowing less than 50 yards rushing versus Stanford. They will be able to get pressure and force a few turnovers.

Everett Golson merely needs to protect the ball and the Irish will be able to score more than enough points to beat the Tar Heels, whose defensive line depth is none existent. Look for some big plays out of Greg Bryant and Will Fuller.

The Irish will win an easy one with the nation's eyes upon them next week. 
Notre Dame 55 UNC 20

BNolan -- Moderator

This is hopefully a game that the Irish can play clean and solid fundamental football, work on some things prior to the big game next week, and win without drama.

That's in theory -- I fear UNC won't be a pushover, but ND should handle them overall.
ND 31 UNC 20


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