Last Saturday, North Carolina gave up 403 yards on the ground to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets had two players finish the game with over 130 yards rushing. Through its first five games, UNC has allowed an average of 221.8 rushing yards per game — which ranks 112th in the nation.
Notre Dame, led by star junior running back Josh Adams, boasts the seventh-best rushing attack in the country with 301.4 rushing yards per contest. Adams has ran for 150 yards or more in three out of the Fighting Irish’s five games.
The Tar Heels will also have to keep an eye on Notre Dame junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who is second on the team with 402 yards on the ground and first on the team with eight rushing touchdowns through five games. North Carolina has shown its vulnerability when defending dual-threat quarterbacks — such as Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall — and containing Wimbush will be no easy task, either.
Wimbush will be a game-time decision for Saturday, as he is still recovering from a right foot injury.
Who’s catching the football?
Receivers Anthony Ratliff-Williams and Jordan Cunningham have turned into quarterback Chazz Surratt's favorite targets this season after several injuries have hindered the Tar Heel receiving corps. In North Carolina’s game against Georgia Tech, no player had over 60 receiving yards.
New reliable receivers must emerge in order for Surratt to have viable options to throw to, and so sophomore Jordon Brown and first-year running back Michael Carter can have holes to run through on the line.
Time of possession
Last week, Georgia Tech controlled the clock against the Tar Heels. The Yellow Jackets had the ball for 38:35 compared to North Carolina's 21:25. The UNC offense was not clicking, going 2 for 12 on third downs and not giving the defense adequate time to rest. When Georgia Tech — which ranks second in the country in average time of possession — had the ball, it would use large chunks of game time due to its elite run game.
Notre Dame runs the ball effectively, as well. However, the Fighting Irish don’t use nearly as much time in doing so. Notre Dame only has the ball for an average of 26 minutes per game, which ranks 109th in the nation.
As long as Surratt and the offense improve their third-down efficiency and find a way to keep the chains moving, the UNC defense will have significantly more time to rest than last week.