Here’s a look at a few players to watch in Friday’s game (3:30 p.m. EST on ABC) between No. 2 Notre Dame (8-0, 7-0 ACC) and No. 25 North Carolina (6-2, 6-2).
QB IAN BOOK, Notre Dame
If the Tar Heels score plenty of points as usual, Book must keep up with their firepower by being highly productive himself. In normal circumstances, Book should not have a problem against this UNC defense, which ranks average at best in most categories. But the Irish offensive line will be without starting center Jarrett Patterson (foot) and right guard Tommy Kraemer (appendectomy). Sophomore Zeke Correll and senior Josh Lugg will fill their place, respectively. Book will need to continue to be efficient on third down, stretch the defense vertically, make plays with his feet and not turn it over.
CB CLARENCE LEWIS, Notre Dame
For the first time all season, Notre Dame’s two-deep depth chart featured Lewis as the lone starting field cornerback over junior TaRiq Bracy. The true freshman will face a tough matchup on Friday. UNC quarterback Sam Howell ranks No. 9 nationally in passing efficiency (182.6 rating). Tar Heel wide receiver Dyami Brown (45 catches for 829 yards and eight touchdowns) comes in at No. 7 nationally in receiving yards. Fellow receiver Dazz Newsome caught 10 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns in UNC’s most recent game against Wake Forest. The Irish cannot afford to have Lewis be a coverage liability on the wide side of the field.
QB SAM HOWELL, North Carolina
Behind only UCF’s Dillon Gabriel (3,017), SMU’s Shane Buechele (2,781) and BYU’s Zach Wilson (2,724), Howell has the fourth-most passing yards in the country (2,631). He also ties for No. 4 in passing touchdowns (23). Irish head coach Brian Kelly said this week that Howell has the best deep ball in the country. Howell continuing to stretch the field vertically will be a key to exploiting Notre Dame’s formidable defense. If Howell kept the Irish defense honest through the air, dynamic running backs Javonte Williams (120 carries for 868 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Michael Carter (116 attempts for 807 yards and four scores) will have better opportunities.
LB CHAZZ SURRATT, North Carolina
The last time UNC played Notre Dame, linebacker Chazz Surratt started at quarterback for the Tar Heels. Surratt started seven games at quarterback in that 2017 season. He eventually agreed to a position switch in the spring of 2019 and became a revelation. In his first season at linebacker last year, Surratt garnered first-team All-ACC honors and finished runner-up for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Through eight games this season, Surratt leads the Tar Heels with 68 tackles and five sacks to go with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five quarterback hurries, one interception, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Look for Surratt to be disruptive against Notre Dame’s potent ground game.