The Notre Dame Fighting Irish should feel a little better this week after earning their first win of the season, a 24-17 decision over California.
The Irish (1-2) did get their running game going, Audric Estime had 76 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and Chris Tyree had 64 yards rushing on 17 carries. The hard work from the backs helped new starting quarterback Drew Pyne work out some early kinks. He was 17 of 23 for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
California’s offense was held to just 296 yards.
North Carolina is 3-0 and coming off of an open date. Quarterback Drake Maye leads the nation with 11 touchdown passes and is eighth nationally with a 89.5 quarterback rating. His top targets are wide receivers Josh Downs and Kobie Paysour and tight end Kamari Morales. Running back Omarion Hampton is averaging 6 yards a carry on the ground.
Caesars Sportsbook has listed North Carolina as a 1.5-point favorite with an over/under of 55.5.
Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish at North Carolina Tar Heels
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC
Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): North Carolina -1.5
Money line: Notre Dame +105; North Carolina -125
Analysis: This will be another big test for Notre Dame’s defense. North Carolina has an elite young quarterback in Maye and a lot of playmakers who can get the ball in the end zone. The Tar Heels are very young on defense, however, and that will give the Irish an opportunity to continue with the running game, move the chains, control the clock and keep Maye and the Carolina offense on the sidelines.
Pyne should get more opportunities to go down the field against this Tar Heels defense, and he will continue to gain confidence with every successful outcome. This is going to be a back-and-forth game. Notre Dame can’t let Carolina get out front too quickly because the Irish aren’t equipped to win a shootout. A smart, balanced attack will put Notre Dame in a position to get the final possession the opportunity to win with a field goal.
With the spread so small, consider the money line if you’re going to bet on Notre Dame.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, North Carolina 27