Notre Dame football statistical prop bet analysis vs. North Carolina

The quarterback comparison for Saturday’s game between North Carolina (3-0) and Notre Dame (1-2) presents a stark contrast. One is a team’s chosen child, an heir to the throne who could take the program to even taller heights. That’s the Tar Heels’ Drake Maye. The other is a two-year backup who was thrown into the fire in Week 3 after a season-ending injury to the starter. That’s the Irish’s Drew Pyne.

How will they fare this weekend? And will the Notre Dame defense finally force not one turnover, but two? BlueandGold.com beat writers Tyler Horka and Patrick Engel break it down.

Over/under 3.5 passing touchdowns for North Carolina QB Drake Maye?

Tyler Horka: Under

But just barely. He’ll get three.

Maye isn’t invincible. He only threw for 2 touchdowns and 1 interception his last time out against Georgia State. That was after 9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in his first two starts, though. He was 1 touchdown shy of averaging 4 per game through his first three starts.

This is a Notre Dame defense that held a Heisman Trophy candidate CJ Stroud to 2 touchdown passes in the season opener. Maye hasn’t seen a unit like this yet. But the Irish haven’t faced an offense with skill position depth like North Carolina’s, and that’s saying something considering Ohio State was on the slate in Week 1. Maye’s 11 touchdown tosses have come to seven different players. Stroud’s 11 through three games went to five different targets.

Maye is working with a corps of pass-catching options Pyne can only dream of. It would be a job well done if the Irish hold Maye to three passing scores.

Patrick Engel: Under

I’ll take three, though. And that would be a fine day for Notre Dame’s defense, all told. Shutting down North Carolina’s offense is a relative term. The Tar Heels have explosive skill position talent, a deep and creative playbook and a quarterback who can run, pass from the pocket and beat sound defense with improvisation and off-platform throws. That’s not the kind of unit that finds itself held to one touchdown on its worst days.

Maye has thrown 11 touchdowns in his first three starts. He gets star wide receiver Josh Downs back this week. Those two are going to get theirs, to a degree.

Notre Dame, though, is a step up in defense from the three Group of Five teams Maye has faced this year. Its defensive line is coming off a six-sack performance where it pressured the Cal quarterback Jack Plummer on more than 40 percent of his dropbacks. I can see the Irish flustered Maye enough and Al Golden throwing some exotic looks his way that keep him from putting up a gaudy stat line.

Over/under 225 passing yards for Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne?

Tyler Horka: Under

e 2021 Notre Dame starter Jack Coan‘s season-long average of 242 yards per game. He only needed … 92 more yards to match the mark. Perhaps I got a little too far over my skis. I’m not going to make the same mistake.

Let’s lower expectations for Pyne to somewhere around 200 passing yards per game. If he hits a wide-open Michael Mayer on a post and completed his first attempt of the game to Lorenzo Styles Last week against Cal, Pyne would have pushed 200. He also missed a short throw to Mayer.

Notre Dame can win this game without Pyne hitting 200 passing yards, just like it did against the Bears. Now, the Irish will likely need more than 24 points and 147 rushing yards, but the game plan is not going to be for Pyne to air it out. Look for him to take a shot or two, but the vertical element between Maye and Pyne will be night and day.

Patrick Engel: Under

I picked Notre Dame to reach 30 points in our buy or sell segment, so those points and yards have to come from somewhere. I’ll take the run game emerging as the primary weapon Saturday, though. That will leave Pyne short of 225.

Pyne was nowhere close to 225 last week when operating an extremely short-range passing offense. Marcus Freeman said the offense must get more vertical this week. North Carolina’s leaky defense is inviting for offenses looking to complete a couple downfield throws. Notre Dame’s offense isn’t exactly built for it, though, as the first two games revealed.

Even if the Irish hit a couple deep balls, they’ll want to control the clock. They’re not interested in a shootout. They’re not built to win a shootout. That mindset is similar to their plan heading into Ohio State, but North Carolina’s defense is much more mobile.

Over/under 1.5 turnovers for the Notre Dame defense?

Tyler Horka: Under

Notre Dame’s ball pursuit in the passing game has been rather nonexistent. Where is the ballhawking? Where is the playmaking? It feels like a fumble is going to have to fall in the Irish’s lap for Golden’s unit to get off the field by way of anything other than a punt or a turnover on downs.

Until these guys show me they can cause chaos and take the ball away, I will bet against them doing so.

Patrick Engel: Under

These usually come in bunches, so it would only be fitting if Notre Dame breaks its dry spell with a turnover party. But I’ll be more cautious and take just one turnover. North Carolina has given the ball away four times in three games. Notre Dame isn’t making nearly enough plays on the ball in the air or stripping it with any frequency.

Maye has thrown 1 interception in his first three games. Furthermore, Pro Football Focus has charged him with 0 turnover-worthy plays on 44 dropbacks when pressured. He has been a good decision-maker when under pressure and accurate across the board. North Carolina has lost three fumbles, though. I’ll say this is the week the constant forced fumble emphasis in Notre Dame’s preseason camp and spring practice pays off.

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