First look: Top story lines, betting odds for the UNC at Notre Dame football game

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North Carolina’s game at No. 11 Notre Dame on Saturday features the two coaches with the most active career games. UNC’s Mack Brown leads the NCAA with 399, followed by Brian Kelly, who leads the Irish with 378 career games.

Out of all those games Brown coached — including stops at Appalachian State, Tulane and Texas — he had never faced Notre Dame until last season’s 31-17 loss at home. Brown said that was the only game last season where the Tar Heels were physically dominated in the fourth quarter.

The Heels have had well-documented troubles in night road games stretching back to last season with losses at Florida State and Virginia in 2020 and losses at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech this season. Brown said they way they have played even led to an offseason reevaluation of their process during the day while waiting to play night games.

“We have a stretching and a period with (strength and conditioning coach Brian) Hess on Saturday that we’ve never had before in my whole career,” Brown said. “...I don’t think there’s anything we can do better except play better on the road. I think we’ve we’ve handled the rest of it.”

North Carolina vs Notre Dame game, TV info

Who: UNC (4-3) vs. Notre Dame (6-1)

Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

TV: NBC

Stream: Peacocktv (premium service)

Vegas betting odds: UNC vs Notre Dame point spread

The Irish are a 3.5-point favorite over the Tar Heels according to the VegasInsider consensus line.

Open week no help for Heels

Carolina had the added benefit of having an extra week to prepare for Notre Dame. The Heels have not played since their 45-42 win over Miami on Oct. 16. Having an open date on the schedule hasn’t proved beneficial for the Heels the past two seasons when they have returned to action.

UNC is just 1-3 in games after having an open date, which includes last season’s loss to the Irish. The lone win was last season’s 26-22 victory at Boston College. In 2019, the Heels lost at Virginia Tech in six overtimes 43-41, and lost at Pittsburgh 34-27 in overtime the week after not having a game.

Can the Irish continue their streaks?

Notre Dame has won 37-straight games against unranked opponents since 2016, which is currently the longest active streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The Irish also own a 12-0 series record at home against the Tar Heels.

Three Notre Dame players to watch

Kyren Williams, RB: Williams is coming off a season-high performance against USC. He had 25 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns. But he’s not just a runner. Williams is second on the team with 25 receptions and leads the team with 805 all-purpose yards.

Jack Coan, QB: Notre Dame sped up its tempo offensively against USC as a way to get quarterback Jack Coan into a better rhythm offensively. It worked. The Irish had Coan throwing shorter routes and timing plays and he connected on 72 percent of his attempts (27 for 37) for 299 yards -- which were both season highs. Coan, who transferred from Wisconsin, hasn’t had a 300-yard passing game yet this season.

Isaiah Foskey, DT: Foskey is tied for third in the FBS with 8.0 sacks, which currently ranks seventh in Notre Dame program history. He’s well within reach of Justin Tuck’s single-season program record of 13.5 set in 2003. That’s not good news for an offensive line at UNC that’s last in the ACC with 27 sacks allowed.

Three UNC Tar Heels to watch

Josh Downs, WR: Downs has caught a touchdown pass in eight straight games going back to last season’s Orange Bowl appearance against Texas A&M. If he gets one against the Irish he will tie Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice for the most consecutive games with a touchdown in program history.

Cedric Gray, LB: The sophomore was named the ACC’s Linebacker of the Week for his heroics against Miami. Gray had two interceptions including the game-winning pick from a tipped pass with six seconds left. His six tackles against the Canes included a touchdown-saving tackle.

Sam Howell, QB: Howell, of course, is the player to watch every game for the Heels. But he’s not on this list this week because of his passing. Howell has quietly amassed 493 yards rushing through seven games. It’s not out the realm of possibility that he could rush for 1,000 yards and pass for more than 3,000.

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