Since North Carolina head coach Mack Brown and offensive coordinator Phil Longo arrived in Chapel Hill the Tar Heel offense has been outstanding. Longo led an offense that saw its scoring average jump almost a touchdown in year one, and in year two the Tar Heels are up 10 points.
Longo runs an Air Raid offense, but it’s not your typical Mike Leach offense. The reason is Longo likes to run the football, and his offense is at its best when the ground game gets going.
The offense has been especially good in 2020, ranking 10th nationally in scoring offense (43.1 PPG), fourth in yards per game (563.4), fourth in yards per play (7.7), 11th in passing yards per game (329.9), seventh in passing yards per attempt (10.6) and per completion (15.5), and eighth in touchdown passes (23) and passer rating (182.23).
Oh, and the Tar Heels are tied for 14th nationally at 233.5 rushing yards per game, and they rank 11th in yards per rush attempt. The team that is tied with North Carolina in rushing yards per game wears gold helmets and will be on the opposite sideline on Friday.
North Carolina has averaged 48 points and 607.2 yards per game in its last six contests, and its offense is going at an 8.1 yards per play clip. The rush game has gone for 255.3 yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry.
When the ground game is rolling it makes the RPO (Run Pass Option) and play-action pass attack almost impossible to defend.
Stopping this offense won’t be easy, but there is a pathway to getting that done. If Notre Dame wants to win this game its defense needs to make stops and keep North Carolina’s offense from taking the game over, it must control the line of scrimmage and slow down the Tar Heel run game.
The evidence is clear, slow down the run game, slow down the North Carolina offense.
North Carolina has gone 13-8 under Brown and Longo.
In the 13 wins the Tar Heel offense averaged 241.2 rushing yards per game, 5.5 yards per carry and 41.4 points per game.
In the 8 losses the Tar Heel offense averaged 147.3 rushing yards per game, 3.9 yards per carry and 29.6 points per game.
North Carolina has been a much better team in 2020, but the same story is true.
In the 6 wins this season the UNC offense has averaged 265.2 rushing yards per game, 6.2 yards per carry and 46.0 points per game.
In the 2 losses, the UNC offense has averaged 138.5 rushing yards per game, 3.6 yards per carry and 34.5 points per game.
The same story was true when Longo was running the Ole Miss offense. In 2018, Ole Miss averaged 223.8 rushing yards (6.5 YPC) and 53.6 points in its five wins. The Rebels averaged 121.4 rushing yards (3.5 YPC) and 19.9 points in its seven losses.
This will be the key for Notre Dame. If it can dominate the trenches and keep the UNC ground game in check this will likely be an Irish victory. If the Tar Heels can be balanced they will be very hard to stop, and the pressures then falls on the shoulders of the Notre Dame offense to win a shootout.
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