I made North Carolina (3-0 straight up, 2-1 against the spread) a seven-point home favorite for its Week 4 home game vs. Notre Dame. UNC is in the favorable spot without a doubt. The Tar Heels have had two weeks to prepare and are in a double-revenge situation.
After starting 3-0 with wins vs. FAMU (56-24), at Appalachian St. (63-61) and at Georgia St. (35-28), Mack Brown’s team relaxed in Week 3 while Marcus Freeman’s squad had to battle until the final play to fortunately pick up its first win over the season vs. California. In the last of many breaks for Notre Dame, a Cal wide receiver dropped a potential tying touchdown that bounced right into his hands after the Hail Mary attempt was deflected multiple times to give the Fighting Irish a 24-17 win.
According to On3’s Matt Zenitz, North Carolina WR Josh Downs is on track to play Saturday after missing back-to-back games injured. Downs, a third-team All-American last year when he had 101 receptions for 1,335 yards and eight TDs, had two TD catches vs. the Rattlers in Week Zero. Even without Downs in two of three games, UNC is ranked fifth nationally in total offense, sixth in scoring (51.3 points per game), 13th in rushing yards and 21st in passing yards.
First-year starting QB Drake Maye has been spectacular to date. In his first three career starts (two without his best WR, all three without his second-best WR Antoine Green, who is probably out at least one more game), Maye has connected on 74.2 percent of his throws for 930 yards with an 11/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He can also make play with his legs, producing 146 rushing yards, one TD and a 5.6 yards-per-carry average.
UNC true freshman RB Omario Hampton has a team-best 228 rushing yards, five TDs and a 6.0 YPC average. Another true freshman, RB George Pettaway, has 87 rushing yards and two TDs with a 5.8 YPC average.
With Downs and Green out, redshirt freshman WR Kobe Paysour has emerged as Maye’s favorite target in recent weeks. Paysour has a team-high 14 catches for 172 yards and two TDs. Maye has distributed the ball to six different targets who have accounted for at least 100 receiving yards apiece.
UNC has issues galore defensively, but not as many as Notre Dame’s offense has. The Fighting Irish’s Drew Pyne will be making his first career road start.
Notre Dame (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) got a phantom offsides call (that was 1,000 percent BS, see tweet below) on a missed field goal when trailing 7-0 vs. Cal this past Saturday in South Bend. Replays clearly showed that no Cal players were lined up in the neutral zone, nobody jumped and the player (#15 at top of screen below) who was flagged for offsides was lined up furthest from the line of scrimmage than any of his other teammates lined up to rush the kicker. Natually, Notre Dame scored a TD two plays later in a 24-17 win over the Golden Bears.
The Fighting Irish are ranked #113 nationally in total offense, #107 in passing yards, #103 in rushing yards and #116 in scoring with its 18.3 PPG average.
Notre Dame won a 44-34 decision over UNC in South Bend last year, but the Tar Heels had a 564-523 advantage in total yards and a 29-27 edge in first downs. In Chapel Hill two seasons ago, the second-ranked Fighting Irish remained undefeated with a 31-17 win.
North Carolina is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games as a home underdog. During Brown’s second tenure at UNC, the Tar Heels are 2-1 ATS as home ‘dogs, beating Miami as five-point home ‘dogs in 2019 and easily covering in a 21-20 loss to Clemson as 27.5-point home ‘dog.
With revenge on its mind, UNC (+1) wins outright to improve to 4-0.