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North Carolina v Notre Dame

Source: Justin Casterline / Getty

It’s a big game for North Carolina this week, as the Tar Heels welcome Wake Forest to Kenan Stadium on Saturday (kick-off is set for noon on WBT).

After starting the season with championship hopes, the Tar Heels are now fighting to reach bowl eligibility. They’ve got to win two of their final four games to do that, with three of their last four opponents ranked in the Top 25. The Demon Deacons are one of those teams – they’re ranked #9 in the country and are undefeated at 8-0 after a 45-7 thrashing of Duke last week. Yes, you read that right – Wake is undefeated! UNC coach Mack Brown put it like this: “this is obviously the best team Wake Forest has ever had.” Wow – so what does that mean for a UNC team that is just 4-4 on the year but coming off a close loss to Notre Dame? It means they’ve got to play really well to have a chance to knock off the Deacs.

The Demon Deacons have an explosive offense that is averaging 43 points per game, that’s 5th in the nation. Junior quarterback Sam Hartman has thrown for nearly 2400 yards with 22 touchdowns. He’s got a dangerous receiving group led by Jaquarii Roberson and A.T. Perry, who’s averaging nearly 20 yards per catch and has eight touchdowns.

Wake boasts a three-headed monster at running back, with Christian Beal-Smith, Justice Ellison and Christian Turner combining for nearly 1200 yards and 14 touchdowns. And Hartman is also a threat to run – he’s got six touchdowns on the ground. The Tar Heels have had trouble with dual-threat quarterbacks and the run defense has been up and down all season – they gave up 293 yards on the ground to Notre Dame last week.

The good news for UNC is their offense can put up plenty of yards and points as well. The Tar Heels rank 12th in yards and 22nd in scoring per game. The key number is 35: the Heels are 4-0 when they score at least 35 points and 0-4 when they don’t. Can they do it against Wake Forest? It won’t be easy. The Deacs are giving up under 24 points a game. They get after the quarterback with 24 sacks on the season, and allow just 220 passing yards per game.

UNC quarterback Sam Howell will provide a challenge to Wake’s secondary, which has struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks this season. And Wake’s run defense isn’t so great, the Deacs give up nearly 202 rushing yards per game.

by Sharon Thorsland

 

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