Five keys to the Notre Dame-North Carolina game
PROTECT THE QB
Regardless of whether Brandon Wimbush or Ian Book starts at quarterback for Notre Dame, the goal must be the same — intense focus on protecting him on the field and in the playbook. The Irish shouldn’t need the quarterback to make a big impact to beat North Carolina. Give Wimbush or Book time to make the easy throws and let the talent around them to do the rest.
RUN FOR IT
Notre Dame’s rushing attack should be able to take any heat off the Irish quarterbacks. The Tar Heels have allowed 221.8 rushing yards per game after being bowled over by Georgia Tech for 403 yards last week. North Carolina should be sick of seeing handoffs again Saturday. Running backs Josh Adams, Tony Jones Jr. and maybe even Dexter Williams, Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes should be able to find green pasture in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina’s offense goes as Chazz Surratt goes. The redshirt freshman quarterback has taken the majority of the playing time away from LSU graduate transfer Brandon Harris and moved the ball effectively. Surratt leads the Tar Heels with 57 carries and has completed 81 of his 128 passes for 988 yards and five touchdowns with only two interceptions. Getting the ball out of Surratt’s hands and forcing someone else to make plays will be important for the Irish.
FIND BIG PLAYS
The Irish have excelled on both sides of the ball with momentum-changing plays. Big runs and forced turnovers have allowed Notre Dame to transform wins into dominating performances. North Carolina has had good fumble luck by losing only two of the six fumbles this season, but an opportunistic Irish defense has shown a knack for coming up with the loose ball. Big runs on offense have made drives much easier for Notre Dame and eliminated pressure in the red zone.
With the bye week ahead, Notre Dame’s players have probably already planned how they’ll use their time off next week. But they can’t let the near future take away their focus on Saturday’s game. The bye week won’t be nearly as relaxing following a loss. Get the win first, then sort out the rest of the itinerary.