Heading south. This is as far south as the Fighting Irish will play until, as it stands, Army in Orlando in 2011. (By south I mean, south of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River). So get ready for a good old fashioned hillbilly lovefest in the heart of NASCAR country. And now for the Anti-Preview...
North Carolina. The Tarheels come into the game with a 4-1 record and a #22 ranking that looks a little generous when you look back at their schedule. North Carolina has beat: 1-AA McNeese State 35-27, Rutgers 44-12, Miami Fla. 28-24, and UConn 38-12. They lost to Virginia Tech 20-17. Not bad, but no victory over a 1-AA team will impress me and they beat up on a UConn team that played a backup QB in Zack Frazer. What does impress me is their dynamic wide receivers; Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks. Both are big play WR's and both are licking their chops at the fact that #20 still plays for ND.
What should you be drinking? Moonshine buddy! That great southern tradition still lives on throughout Appalachia and surrounding areas. The good stuff is still quite illegal, so if you wish to imbibe in some White Lightning be cautious. Most shine will come in either a clay jug or a mason jar. However, I have found that most moonshine coming from Kentucky is bottled in plastic milk jugs. The rest of the Southern Community looks down on that practice. Now when you're down there tailgating, don't mix your shine with a soda, juice, or anything else. In fact, just break the jar out and start passing it around. This is the only acceptable way to drink it. Have fun, but remember that moonshine is 100 proof or greater so be prepared to be knocked directly on your ass if you drink too much. I know you will.
What should I be eating? You're in the south. Fried Chicken and more fried chicken. So break out your deep fryer for the tailgate and follow this delicious recipe. Now, if you feel like cooking up the chicken yourself- have your mama do it. Mama Dips, that is. No trip to Chapel Hill would be complete without a visit to this classic example of southern cuisine. Don't forget your sides of blackeye peas, yams, okra, greens, cornbread, etc., etc.
What should I be wearing? The forecast is looking pretty good for the most part. There is a slight chance for some rain showers, but it's a small chance. So what do we wear? Wll, since we are in the south and around the racing rednecks, get your NASCAR t-shirts. Get Michael Floyd #3 / Dale Earnhardt, #7 Jimmy Clausen / Robby Gordon, #55 Eric Olsen / Michael Waltrip, and #77 Mike Turkovich / Sam Hornish Jr. The list is mighty long. Also, check into grabbing a mullet for the game. No, not the guys in front of you but a sweet wig to help blend you into the crowd.
What freshman will make the biggest impact (besides Floyd)? Last week I went with Kyle Rudolph and predicted a redzone TD for the young tight end. BINGO. This week I am going with freshman cornerback, Robert Blanton. Blanton should see plenty of playing time this week as ND is going up against some very good WR's and the Tarheel rushing attack is worse than ND's (or close to it). ND should still bring a decent amount of pressure this week and that may force a couple of really bad passes by Nort Carolina QB, Cam Sexton. Look for Robert to pick one off while Sexton is just trying to get rid of the ball. Blanton is certainly capable of the big play, and I think he has a couple on Saturday.
What offensive player needs to step it up? Eric Olsen. I keep hearing how North Carolina has this super tough and super good defensive line that the Heels use as the main source of pressure against the passing game while they drop 7 back into a zone coverage. So it's safe to say, that a lot of the battles in the trenches will be one on one battles. Olsen needs to make sure his shit is together as well as firing up the guys on the line with him. There are going to be moments in this game where ND will have to line up and get that one yard to keep a drive alive. This is where Olsen and his brothers in arms on the line have to suck it up and play balls out. Olsen has been one of the Irish's emotional leaders since the Spring, and his play and pissed off demeanor have really helped the line to develop into a better unit. Olsen must continue to be that guy on the line Weis and all of the Irish faithful can trust to kick a little ass.
What defensive player needs to step it up? Raeshon McNeil. It looks as if there is no possible way Terrail Lambert is going to come out of his shell this season and make a play. I just keep seeing him burnt whether the ball gets there or not. McNeil is coming home to North Carolina and he is ready to prove to his home state that he is a rising star. He will have to play extremely well as I see the safety help, rolling on the other side.
What special teams player needs to step it up? The "Gunners". What? Not Brandon Walker? No. I am not sure he is capable of stepping up and making clutch kicks. It's a sad commentary, but it is a reality that we have to face. What was disappointing last week, was the return yards Notre Dame gave up to Stanford. David Bruton admitted that he didn't play up to his level of expectations as it pertains to kick coverage and Anello was not as visible as well. North Carolina has a VERY dangerous return man in Brandon Tate, and the Irish gunners have to get downfield and make a play early to help the defense's cause. I fully expect Anello and Bruton to be back to form this week and make those plays. Not only does it help with field position, but it also fires the defense up and sets the tone for the following series. This is HUGE.
Who's gonna win? The fashionable pick by most everyone so far this week, has been North Carolina in a close game. Nope. The Irish win in impressive fashion: Irish 42-21. The defense will step up to the challenge and create turnovers like they have all season. This week they turn those turnovers into short fields and then into points, Last week ND had 3 takeaways that resulted in 0 points. That will be the difference this week.
(From Irish Eye's London Domer)