North Carolina vs. Notre Dame Prediction: Week 9 College Football Picks
Spread: Notre Dame -3.5
Game time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where to Watch: NBC
UNC vs. Notre Dame Prediction & Week 9 College Football Pick
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are starting to put together some of their best football of the season, and they will look to continue their winning ways as they host the North Carolina Tar Heels. Notre Dame is 6-1, with their only defeat coming against Cincinnati, and they’ve won three of their last four games against some quality competition, beating Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and USC.
Notre Dame’s defense suffered plenty of graduation and personnel losses after last season and that unit struggled, especially early in the season, but the Fighting Irish have gradually seen significant improvement on that side of the football as they’ve surrendered just 19 points per game in their last five.
The offense has also gotten better during the course of the season, mostly because the offensive line has meshed as a unit and gotten healthier after battling some injuries in the first month. Notre Dame is running the football better now than earlier in the season with RB Kyren Williams, who busted out for 138 rushing yards at 5 yards per carry and a pair TDs in the win on Saturday against USC. The passing game has also taken flight in recent weeks. QB Jack Coan has had back-to-back strong performances against Virginia Tech and USC, completing north of 70% of his passes with 2 TDs and no INTs. That improvement offensively should continue here against a North Carolina defense that has not played well or consistent this season with the Tar Heels allowing 35+ points in four of their last five games.
North Carolina started the season as a Top-10 team but they’ve been proven to be a pretender ever since. The Tar Heels have a mediocre 4-3 record, including losses to Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. It’s been a disappointing season for UNC based on the expectations for the team coming in, and that includes QB Sam Howell's somewhat underwhelming play, especially for someone that was in the Heisman Trophy discussion prior to the season.
Howell has played better in recent weeks but still has only completed 61% of his passes and has thrown 6 INTs in just 7 games. The ground attack lost two terrific RB’s from last season’s team and they’ve had a difficult time replicating that production with RB Ty Chandler, who had a big game in North Carolina’s last game against Miami but prior to that, he was held to 48, 53 and 61 rushing yards in the three previous games.
It won’t be easy to get the run game going against Notre Dame’s defense, which has held teams to just 3.8 yards per carry. In their home games this season, Notre Dame is allowing just 90.3 rushing yards and 3.1 yards per rush. The Notre Dame secondary has been vulnerable at times though and that could be where North Carolina has some success. Expect Howell to look to leading receiver Josh Downs, who has at least 8 receptions in every game this season.
North Carolina enters this game off a bye week, which is an advantage, but I’m not sure it’s enough of an advantage for me to trust them to go on the road and win this game. The Tar Heels finally won a close game against the Miami Hurricanes in their most recent game before the bye week. But, this is a team that has struggled to win those tight games most of the season.
It’s been the polar opposite for Notre Dame, who have found ways to win close games this season. There has been way too much “Jekyll & Hyde” in North Carolina. Their ‘A’ game can beat anyone, but they’ve also shown they can play poorly enough to lose to anyone. This will be only the third road game of the season for North Carolina, and they are 0-2 SU and ATS, losing outright as favorites in their previous two road games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
Notre Dame is out of the playoff conversation, but there is still plenty to play for as they can still make it to a New Year's Six bowl game if they win out. Their offense is finally coming together, scoring 31+ points in two straight games, and the defense has been very solid for the last few games. I think the Fighting Irish will do enough to emerge with the win and cover as short home favorites here. It’s worth noting that Notre Dame experimented with an uptempo, faster-paced offense last week against USC and if that continues here, it could lead to a higher scoring game. So. I’ll go with the over in this game as well for a smaller bet. North Carolina is 4-3 to the over this season. For Notre Dame, every single time they've gone under this season they've followed up by going over in their next game. They went under last week, so expect points.
UNC vs. Notre Dame Pick
Pick: Notre Dame -3.5 @-110
Pick: Over 62.5 @ -108