posted 8 years ago
Notre Dame has struggled to establish an effective ground game and there's little reason to believe that will change this week. RB Armando Allen has been inconsistent and rolled his ankle against Stanford last week. While Allen is the Fighting Irish's best perimeter threat because of his quickness, OLB's Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant are both playing well and have the athletic ability and range to limit his production when he runs outside, especially if the ankle injury hinders him. Making matters worse for Notre Dame, backup RBs Robert Hughes and James Aldridge will have an even harder time getting on track. The 237-pound Hughes and 225-pound Aldridge are at their best running between the tackles but 330-pound Tar Heels RDT Cam Thomas is virtually impossible to move off the ball with one man, so the Fighting Irish will have to commit two blockers to him when they run inside. This will help free up LDT Marvin Austin and MLB Mark Paschal. Austin is 37 pounds lighter than Notre Dame RG Chris Stewart but he's also two inches shorter and considerably quicker so he should be able to get under Stewart's pads. Paschal is a reliable tackler who locates the ball quickly and takes sound pursuit angles.
Irish QB Jimmy Clausen threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns without an interception against Stanford, and though he faces a stronger pass defense this week the Fighting Irish should again have success moving the ball though the air. One of the biggest reasons is their pass protection. Notre Dame OTs Sam Young and Mike Turkovich are capable of keeping North Carolina DEs E.J. Wilson and Robert Quinn out of the backfield with little to no help. On the inside, Thomas and Austin are better run defenders than they are pass rushers and none of this bodes well for a Tar Heels secondary that has the difficult task of trying to slow Irish WRs Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, David Grimes and Duval Kamara. Tar Heels CBs Jordan Hemby, Kendric Burney and Charles Brown aren't big enough to match up with Floyd and Kamara or explosive enough to stay with Tate and Grimes coming out of their breaks. Still, it's important that Clausen makes the most of the time his blockers give him and takes what the coverage gives him. No FBS team has recorded more interceptions than the Tar Heels' 12 picks, and SS Trimane Goddard has four of those interceptions and he does a good job of reading routes as well as quarterbacks' eyes. In addition, Paschal, Carter and Sturdivant have combined to record four interceptions so Clausen must be careful when looking to dump the ball off to a back or TE Kyle Rudolph.