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Stacking Up The Notre Dame Offense vs North Carolina

Breaking down how the Notre Dame offense matches up on paper against the Tar Heel defense

Notre Dame has a tough matchup this weekend when it takes on the undefeated North Carolina Tar Heels. The battle between the Notre Dame offense and the Tar Heel defense is a battle of two struggling units. Both rank near the bottom of the national rankings in rushing, passing and scoring. 

Which struggling unit steps up this weekend will have a big impact on the outcome. We continue our coverage of the matchup between the Irish and Heels with a look at how the Notre Dame offense stacks up on paper against the Carolina defense.

Notre Dame Rush Offense vs UNC Rush Defense

ND Rush Offense vs UNC

Advantage: Even

Notre Dame has struggled the run the ball all season and North Carolina has been shredded on the ground the last two games. It's a true matchup of bad on bad. 

The Irish had a "breakout" against California when it racked up 147 yards and 3.6 yards per carry on the ground. Pointing to that kind of performance against a team like Cal says a lot about how bad things were the first two games. Cal is a quality defense, but it wasn't an old school dominant ground performance.

A bright spot was the running back combination Notre Dame used against the Bears. Notre Dame rode speedster Chris Tyree in the first half and power back Audric Estime in the second half, and the duo combined for 140 yards.

North Carolina held Florida A&M to just 56 rushing yards in the season opener, but it gave up 288 and 235 yards on the ground the next two weeks in tight wins over Appalachian State and Georgia State. The Mountaineers gashed UNC with big plays while the Panthers grinded out tough yards. They did it different, but UNC couldn't stop either team.

So what gives in this matchup? Will Notre Dame keep improving on the ground, or perhaps have a true breakout, or will UNC finally figure out how to slow down an opponent? Notre Dame will need the former to be the answer if it's going to win this game.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs UNC Pass Defense

ND Pass Offense vs UNC

Advantage: Notre Dame

Another area of struggling units, but this one is interesting because both teams have talented skill players that have simply struggled to get going this season.

Notre Dame's pass game was efficient in the second half against California, but the Irish did not attempt a single pass beyond 20 yards and completed just one that traveled more than 10 yards past the line. That's just not going to beat many times, so Notre Dame will need to find some pass game answers.

The Irish wideouts have been a problem, as the unit has struggled to get open with any consistency and drops have been an issue. Quarterback Drew Pyne needs to be more aggressive this week, and OC Tommy Rees will need to figure out ways to get more from the pass offense.

North Carolina was a bit better against Georgia State, holding the Panthers to just 186 yards through the air, but they did give up three passing scores. The Heels have a long and athletic secondary, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them improve at some point. Notre Dame needs to hope that it isn't this Saturday.

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Look, North Carolina is going to do what most teams have done to the Irish offense in recent seasons. Put extra resources to the run game and dare them to beat them throwing the ball. If Notre Dame can't do that it could be a rough day.

Notre Dame Scoring Offense vs UNC Scoring Defense

ND Scoring Offense vs UNC

Advantage: Notre Dame

Notre Dame gets the edge here because of its red zone offense. One thing Notre Dame has done well is once it gets into the red zone it is getting touchdowns. 

Neither team has been good on third-down, and both teams have struggled with scoring (Notre Dame) or stopping the opponent from scoring (North Carolina). This matchup will come down to moving the chains, protecting the ball and finishing drives off with touchdowns for Notre Dame, and not allowing that to happen for North Carolina.

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