Updated: Dec 13, 2020
By: Phil Houk of Fighting Irish Preview
Veteran head coach Mack Brown has really moved the North Carolina program forward in just 2 seasons. They stand at 6-2, their only 2 losses were narrow defeats to Florida State and Virginia.
Like the Irish, they were off last week. The last time they played, they beat Wake Forest 59-53.
The Tar Heels score a lot of points, 43.1 per game 10th best in the Country. And they gain yards, lots of them, 563 per game and that ranks 4th best nationally.
They are led by Sophomore Quarterback Sam Howell. Howell completes nearly 70% of his passes. Adept at the RPO game, he will tuck it and run. He has thrown 23 touchdown passes thus far in 2020. Last year as a freshman he tossed 38.
The Tar Heels are loaded with good receivers, the best of them may be Dyami Brown who has 45 catches good for 829 yards and 8 TDs. Running the ball is a two headed affair, Javonte Williams has gained 868 yards and has scored 15 TDs, the most by any running back in the country and Michael Carter has added another 807 yards and 4 TDs. Both players are effective receivers.
If there is one chink in their offensive armor North Carolina has given up a lot of sacks, and getting pressure on Howell surely will be a priority for Clark Lea’s defense.
As good as these guys are on offense, on defense they have struggled. They give up 30.8 points and 413 yards of offense. Pass defense is a glaring weakness where they are ranked 97th nationally.
North Carolina has also been penalty prone, giving up 75 yards per game in the category.
A lot about this game has the smell of a track meet, so Clark Lea has his work cut out for himself.
The Friday game coverage on ABC starts at 3:30 PM South Bend time. Over/under is 65 1/2 and the Irish are favored by 4.5 points.
The FIP Pick: ND 40-North Carolina- 34