Happy Thanksgiving to all our One Foot Down readers!!!
I hope you all get the opportunity to relax, stuff your faces with good food, and take a bomb-ass nap while watching football today. Additionally, if you have a few minutes to spare or need something to do while avoiding uncomfortable conversations with family members, let’s talk about our #2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team and their last big regular season test — the #25 North Carolina Tar Heels.
The Heels will host the Irish tomorrow at 3:30 PM ET in one of two Friday games between two ranked teams (the other being #17 Texas hosting #13 Iowa State). Although the Irish have already proven themselves against an elite team in Clemson and the Tar Heels haven’t yet faced a defense like Clark Lea’s, UNC’s offensive attack is absolutely something to be feared (#4 offense in SP+ and #6 in FEI, 4th nationally in total offense and yards per play, 10th in scoring).
So, knowing the Irish will either need to slow down a prolific offense or take advantage of UNC’s not-great defense to win a shoot-out (while missing a couple OL starters), I reached out to Brandon Anderson over at Tar Heel Blog to better understand what we should know about Mack Brown’s squad heading into tomorrow’s game.
So, with plenty of turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and whatnot to go gorge ourselves on, let’s not tarry any longer — time to dive into Brandon’s responses and prepare for what will hopefully be ND’s 9th win of the season.
1. Considering the hype heading into the season and early in the year when the Tar Heels worked their way up to a #5 ranking, how are UNC fans feeling about the season at this point, and what do you expect from the rest of the year and the future with Mack Brown at the helm?
Brandon Anderson, Tar Heel Blog: I think fans are disappointed with how the games against Florida State and Virginia went. On paper UNC was the better team in both of those games, and considering how high UNC was ranked, it was a brutal slap back down to reality I think for a lot of people.
To be very honest, I feel like they have overachieved to this point because of some sizable holes in the defense, but when you have an offense like this one sometimes your offense becomes your best defense. I think the future is extremely bright with Mack Brown running things, and I am fully anticipating this team being a CFB Playoff contender next season.
2. Let’s talk about Sam Howell — the guy is a stud, and is on a fast track to be one of the first guys picked in the 2022 NFL Draft. What makes him so good, and what can opposing defenses do to slow him down?
Brandon Anderson: The first thing that makes Howell so good is that he has a cannon of an arm. Being one of the top teams in the country in explosive plays only happens with a guy that can hit just about every pass no matter the distance, and that’s exactly what we have in this kid.
I also think that his mobility is a strength of his, though I think it also causes him to make some questionable decisions sometimes, because he thinks he can get away without taking a sack. I think the final thing is he is just a really smart player. His decision making could be smarter when the pocket is collapsed, but it’s rare to see him make incorrect reads.
3. UNC has a two-headed monster in the backfield to help balance out the offense with Howell’s passing prowess. What does each back do well and how do you think the UNC running game will perform against what’s been a stingy ND defensive front so far this season?
Brandon Anderson: Starting with Javonte Williams, one thing he does extremely well is he absorbs first, second, and sometimes third and fourth contact like it’s nothing. I think as we’ve progressed through the season I fully expect him at this point to get through at least one or two defenders before he finally goes down.
When it comes to Michael Carter, I think he is just a really good, well-rounded back. He can make some things happen getting the ball out of the backfield, and he’s had some surprising blocks when he’s assigned to do so for his size.
4. What position groups are strengths and weaknesses for the Tar Heels defense, and if you were Irish OC Tommy Rees, how would you attack Jay Bateman and Tommy Thigpen’s squad?
Brandon Anderson: The defensive line is by far the biggest weakness in UNC’s defense. The linebackers have had to try to help get pressure on the quarterback this season way more than they should, and it’s mostly gone pretty badly.
The secondary has also been pretty banged up, but word on the street is that Kyler McMichael should be back and Storm Duck has a good chance of returning. Duck was having a really good season before going down with an injury, so if he comes back I think that will help tremendously.
I think as far as Notre Dame’s game plan against UNC, it should involve seeing how badly they can wear down the front seven in the run game, and if nothing else make them work in the passing game. If UNC can’t get any pressure, the Irish are going to have a field day slinging the ball around the field.
HALFTIME: Exclusive Interview with Roscoe Anderson, Older Brother of UNC’s Starting Center Brian Anderson
To give some quick context, Roscoe was my randomly-assigned roommate as an ND freshman in Stanford Hall, and I gotta admit I was a little concerned about what he’d be like after his first email to me the summer before our freshman year, when he asked which of us was bringing a vacuum for our room (spoiler alert: it was neither of us and I don’t think we vacuumed, ever).
However, Roscoe was, thankfully, a wonderful roommate and became a lifelong, very close friend, and we roomed together through junior year before I moved off campus as a senior and ‘Scoe served as a Stanford RA (a role he was born to play).
During my time becoming friends with ‘Scoe, I got to know his exceptional family as well — they are the nicest, warmest, most gregarious family you’ll ever meet — and I even went to visit them once in Alabama, which is where I got to spend some time getting to know all 3 of Roscoe’s younger brothers. That trio included Charlie (who at the time was a year away from heading off to Furman to play football), Sterling (who was in high school at the time, ended up attending Auburn, and is now becoming a doctor), and a 5th/6th grader by the name of Brian.
Brian was a nice kid, loved hanging out with his older brothers, appeared to like wakeboarding and playing with Tech Deck mini skateboards, and seemed pretty big and athletic at the time, at least for his age.
Fast-forward ten years, and that young whippersnapper is now the 6’3”, 295-lb, redshirt junior starting center for Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels. And he’s having a heckuva year from the looks of how that offense is performing.
So, in order to give y’all as much of an inside scoop as possible, I had Roscoe answer some questions about his brother that will hopefully give Notre Dame the advantage needed to overcome Brian and his boys on Friday.
@BrianKelly, please read the below and disseminate the info to the defensive line accordingly:
1. What is Brian’s greatest weakness and how can the Notre Dame defense look to use that against him in this game?
‘Scoe: Brian’s biggest weakness is that he’s lit a candle at the grotto before. As a Catholic with a devotion to Mary, I imagine it will be trying — and maybe even conflicting — going up against Our Lady’s university.
Not sure how the Notre Dame defense can leverage this, but having lit those candles and having asked for Mary’s intercession throughout his life, you’d have to think that could have an impact on Friday’s game.
2. If you had to compare Brian to a Thanksgiving dish, what would he be and why?
‘Scoe: Stuffing, he’s the essential side dish to make any Thanksgiving meal a bountiful one. A great stuffing complements the turkey perfectly, a bad stuffing may ruin the taste of the turkey. Brian is a great stuffing that complements and makes the turkey (the offensive skill players) a great meal.
3. You used to long snap footballs in our dorm hallway. Are you better at snapping than Brian? Be honest.
‘Scoe: Yes, I was a long snapper in high school. Just snapping, I think I can probably still long snap for a punt better than my brother.
That’s just one part though — if it was identifying coverages, executing a snap, and then trying to block a defender without getting steamrolled, he’d beat me by a mile.
4. I once went to your family lakehouse and watched Brian wakeboard behind your boat. Does he still wakeboard, and if so, does he do any cool tricks?
‘Scoe: I think he might occasionally, but these days if you find Brian in a boat he’s more likely to be headed to a duck blind or gone fishing.
5. Same question as above, but about finger skateboards.
‘Scoe: Not to my knowledge, but I’m pretty sure the years of mastering Tech Deck finger boards in middle school provided the finger strength and dexterity needed to be the center he is today.
6. One time when Brian and your family came to visit us at Notre Dame (we were freshmen or sophomores I think, so Brian would have been like 12 years old), I taught Brian the Spanish word for “penis” as a joke.
Do you think that ultimately gave him the academic and mental advantage he needed to get to where he is today?
‘Scoe: Yes — I heard it’s actually one of the checks he calls out for identifying coverages at the line. With the reduced attendance and increased ability to hear what’s said on the field, listen closely as they come up to the line on Friday.
7. How has the brother dynamic changed over the years in terms of who can beat up/physically dominate whom? Do you and Sterling band together against your two college football brothers? Do you now have to rely on out-scheming them in any brotherly hand-to-hand combat?
‘Scoe: I have sought to master the art of self preservation, so we haven’t fought in a while. Brian was probably bigger than me and could take me by the time he was in the third grade. Sterling’s in med school now, so we’ve resorted to psychological warfare using riddles and obscure diagnoses from WebMD to confuse them.
8. You once told me that your mom banned the Anderson boys from watching Power Rangers because it got y’all too riled up and you would all fight each other afterward.
How strong and powerful do you think Brian would be today if your mom had allowed him to continue watching Power Rangers, feeding that fight inside him?
‘Scoe: Haha yes, it’s a true story — we would bounce off the walls after watching Power Rangers as kids, so it got banned in the house.
I don’t know what would have happened — he might have morphed into Megazord on the strength scale. Rumor has it Brian still watches an episode as part of his pregame ritual before heading to the locker room to get amped and ready to play.
9. Are you rooting for your alma mater or your brother on Friday? You better not say brother and give me some crap like “family is most important.” We’ve got an ACC title to win.
‘Scoe: Definitely wearing Carolina blue and rooting for my brother. Fr. Ted never specified where family falls in the hierarchy of God, Country, Notre Dame.
10. Tell your folks and all your brothers and Lexi I say hello, I miss them dearly and hope they’re all doing well.
‘Scoe: Will do — we miss you too!
Okay, now that we have everything we need to know about the man in the middle for the UNC offensive line, let’s get back to our regularly-scheduled Q&A with Brandon...
5. FAN QUESTION:
Notre Dame will probably be the best defense that UNC has seen so far this season. What are their expectations for the UNC offense in this game?— Jack Leniart (@Leniart_ND) November 23, 2020
Brandon Anderson: I think the offense is destined to put up at least 21 points on the board, but from there it’s really hard to say. As I mentioned before, UNC’s best defense has been their offense, but the game against Wake Forest wasn’t exactly something that a team should need to do all the time.
I don’t think UNC can win this game having to put up 59 points, let alone do I think they could. So, I think they’ll do well, but how well is really the big question.
The biggest factor to me is going to be how well they can establish the run game. In the games that UNC has lost, Javonte Williams and Michael Carter were slowed down quite a bit and because of it the offense didn’t run very smoothly. If Notre Dame can slow them down, then it’ll likely be a bad day for Mack Brown and his team.
6. FAN QUESTION:
Yah I do. Why doesn't North Carolina just combine with South Carolina to make one super powerful Carolina. Is there some kinda North/South Bias that the rest of us dont know about?— Tyler Butler Sr. (@tylerbutler95) November 23, 2020
Brandon Anderson: We hate them. Next question.
7. Festive Question Alert: If each starter on the UNC offense were a Thanksgiving dish/food item, what would each guy be and why?
Brandon Anderson: Rather than steal his thunder, I’ll defer to Michael McKay’s article that he just wrote discussing this very matter.
I don’t believe that he assigned a food to the wide receivers, however. I will say the wide receivers are probably pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving feels wrong without it and it’s really hard for it to be terrible.
8. In your own words, how would you explain “the ceiling is the roof” to someone who’s never heard that before, and are there any situations where the ceiling is, in fact, NOT the roof?
Brandon Anderson: The Ceiling is the Roof is basically a moment in time when the greatest basketball player of all time, as far as we know, had an unfortunate moment with words (if he said that on purpose, I would love to know what he meant).
Because it is Michael Jordan, however, you can’t really ridicule him for something like that. If he tells you that peanut butter tastes like cotton candy then well....peanut butter now tastes like cotton candy according to UNC fans.
Is that weird? Kind of, but also the slogan made him and the school a good amount of money. So the short answer: the roof is now the sky which is typically the limit...because Michael Jeffrey Jordan says so.
9. Alright, let’s get down to it: who do you think wins this game, what will the score be, and provide any and all rationale that gets you to that decision.
Brandon Anderson: I think I’m going to guess a final score of 31-42, and Notre Dame stays undefeated. I feel like UNC’s offense has been rolling as of late, and I think that considering I have a lot of questions about what will happen after they score their initial 21 points, 31 feels about right as a high number.
With that said, I fully expect the Irish offense to torture our defense. Knowing that Kyren Williams ran for 140 yards against Clemson makes it really hard to be very optimistic, and I think he’ll be a big key to this game.
BONUS CONTENT: PAT RICK PICKS HIS FAVORITE NAMES ON THE NORTH CAROLINA ROSTER
Due to some of the...lacking...answers provided to me in past weeks, and because asking this question every week is 75% just for me anyway, I chose to not bother Brandon with this question and instead just give you my personal favorite names on the Tar Heels roster.
Here they are:
- DB Storm Duck
- RB British Brooks
- WR Dazz Newsome
- DB Giovanni Biggers
- DB Welton Spottsville
- DB Ja’Qurious Conley
- WR Rontavius Groves
- OL Wisdom Asaboro
- LB Tomon Fox
- OL Tobechi Nwokeji
- LB Chazz Surratt
- DL Lancine Turay
- DL Xach Gill
- DL Kedrick Bingley-Jones
- TE John Copenhaver
- WR Gray Goodwyn
- QB Jacolby Criswell
- WR Tylee Craft
- WR Beau Corrales
- DL Tomari Fox
- DB Obi Egbuna
- DB Cam’Ron Kelly
- LB Parks Cochrane
Bonus: WR Jeffrey Saturday, son of Indianapolis Colts LEGEND Jeff Saturday
I want to give a MASSIVE shout-out to Brandon for some great responses on a very quick turnaround. Make sure you head over to Tar Heel Blog to check out his and the rest of the team’s work, as you will find no better info on the UNC football team heading into this match-up.
Even FURTHERMORE, thank you to Roscoe for taking time out of a big week for the Anderson family (Thanksgiving, Brian playing a huge game against ND) to answer my stupid questions, and a special shout-out to the Anderson parents, Linda and Charlie, for being amazing and raising some outstanding young men.
Well folks, that’s it for me this week — I’m gonna go inhale my body weight in mashed potatoes as my family looks on in horror. GO IRISH!!!