UNC – By the Numbers

Let’s look at some objective evidence to see if we can figure out why Vegas has the Heels as a 12.5 point favorite. Here are a few tables summarizing the national rankings to see how the two offenses match up against the two defenses:


I first started looking at the relevant stats when one of our readers commented that UNC was living and dying with turnovers. As the two highlighted numbers show, the UNC scoring offense and defense rankings are not in line with the other key stat categories. UNC currently ranks 8th in the nation in turnover margin which pretty well explains this discrepancy.

So it should be easy to see that one of the keys to the game is that Russell Wilson continues to make good decisions with the ball and the Wolfpack ball carriers need to hang onto to the ball.

Frankly, I was surprised to see that UNC’s offensive numbers weren’t any better. That just goes to show how watching a limited number of games can sometimes distort your view of a team.


Now let’s compare UNC to some of the teams that State has played over the last several weeks:


Here are some conclusions that I have reached:

– UNC isn’t significantly better than any of these teams.
– Looking at these stats makes me wonder why the UMD win over the Heels was considered an upset.
– I don’t bet on sports, but I see nothing here that suggests that UNC should win by more than say FSU or BC.
– Sad to say, but the stats also clearly show that UNC should be favored to win, especially since the game is in Chapel Hill.


Looking at UNC’s three losses, I found a few interesting tidbits:

– UNC led all three games through three quarters, but couldn’t close out the games.

– UNC lost the turnover battle in all three games.

I’m sure that the conclusions from these two tid-bits are obvious to all of our readers.

The UVA game was especially interesting (at least to me). I was tied up all day, missing the UMD/State game and the majority of the UNC/UVA game. I got home just in time to watch the last five minutes or so of regulation and then OT. My son and I were literally laughing about how the UNC coaches were trying to lose that game. In case you missed it, here is the summary from the end of regulation:

UNC gets the ball leading 7-3 with 9:51 left in the game. UNC marches down the field chewing up the clock until the reach the UVA 20 yard line. The offense stalls and they settle for a field goal to go up 10-3.

After the kickoff, UVA starts on its own 18 yard line with 2:18 left in regulation. Up until this point in the game, UVA has managed a total of 3 points and 135 yards of total offense:


Butch may be a great recruiter, but no one is going to convince me that he is a great coach.


I wish that I had some really insightful keys to the game that would open your eyes; but everything I have found should be obvious to nearly any knowledgeable State fan:

– State’s offense needs to continue to produce as well as it did against similar and even better ACC defenses.

– State’s defense needs to keep a close watch on Hakeem Nicks. With 911 receiving yards, he is the ACC’s best WR and is currently tied for 17th nationally.

– UNC’s offensive line is nothing special. Their rushing attack is a whole 16 yards per game better than State’s and both teams are tied nationally at 73rd in sacks allowed. One of the ways to keep Nicks in check is to keep pressure on the QB…and not allow Nicks time to run through State’s secondary.

– State needs to hold onto to the ball. When UNC doesn’t win the turnover battle, they have a hard time winning.

– UNC has had problems closing out games in the fourth quarter. If State can keep it close, then those jerseys might start feeling a little tight around the neck in the fourth quarter.

– I didn’t watch UNC play GT or BC; but I’m sure that State’s coaches have. So whatever those two teams did on defense against UNC…do something different.

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

'08 Football NCS Football Stat of the Day

30 Responses to UNC – By the Numbers

  1. hball57 11/19/2008 at 6:48 PM #

    I would be interested to see how those numbers compare using the State numbers from the last 5 games. I think that the team had been building since then. Rushing would be different, as we have rushed for 150+ yards the last 4 games. I think the offensive numbers would be different. Even the defensive numbers have improved.

    I am more interested in where the numbers dovetail. N State rushing against UNC rushing defense, for example. I think that is a defensive key as well, as the longer sustained drives will be a big factor in how the defense plays. Obviously the To margin is a big factor, as i don’t see UNC winning without TOs in their favor.

    The first two tables compare UNC offense vs State’s defense and vice-versa. Look at the column headings.

  2. john of sparta 11/19/2008 at 7:45 PM #

    bottom line: Vegas wants bets on the Pack.
    they aren’t getting enough action. they have
    to Give NCSU points to get someone to pick the Pack.
    it AIN’T about winning. it’s about that 10%.
    give ENUF points and the UNC/NCSU bets even out.
    10% of that builds another casino.
    i really could fall for this.

  3. whitefang 11/19/2008 at 7:51 PM #

    I sat right behind the Carolina bench at the UVa game. They were way more talented than Virgina from my perspective. Poor coaching decisions IMO (Of course they look like good decisions when you win). But they moved the ball easily at first on UVa, and we were expecting a blow-out (thinking about going back to the tailgate for a drink!). UVa made some adjustments and stayed in the game. UNC did not seem to have an answer to the adjustments. Verica absolutely destroyed their prevent D.
    Knee down after the tie in reg was either a stupid decision or a sign of under-confidence in the offense.
    I think we have to have an almost perfect (lucky?) game to win, but I still have confidence that TOB knows WTF he is doing. UNC is pretty talented in skill areas. We may loose but it won’t be because we aren’t well coached.

  4. SEAT.5.F.2 11/19/2008 at 8:01 PM #

    I think we’re the one’s pretty good in the skilled areas, and the Tar Heels can match up pretty well. The game will come down to the pig’s in the trenchs because which ever team wears down the other in the trenches will win, it is going to be close.

    The spread is ridiculous but I don’t bet. This is barely less then we were at Clempson back when everyone thought they were going to eat our guts after the Bama debacle. We covered that, and to my recollection every game except USC and USF (can’t remember if anyone missed any snaps in those two games)

  5. Daily Update 11/19/2008 at 8:15 PM #

    Not only does UNC get turnovers, but they get points on turnovers. They are top 6~ in the country in non-offensive TDs. 4 ints for TDs, 1 PR for TD, and 1 blocked kick for a TD. So in addition to the turnovers, they have got a lot of production out of their special teams.

    We can’t afford short fields or direct points given up on TOs or special teams. Their one weakness on special teams might be their FG kicker while at the same time ours is having a very good year(10-12 so far).

    If we don’t turn the ball over, get off clean punts when we don’t score, and make UNC drive the field against, then we have a great chance to win IMO.

  6. wufpaxno1 11/19/2008 at 8:25 PM #

    hball57, My thoughts exactly as I was reading the post. The big difference here is that I don’t see that much improvement overall in UNC from the begining of the season to now where as we all can see that State has improved tenfold over that same period of time. The media and so called experts are looking at the body of work as a whole, while I prefer to look at what has happened lately. UNC may have more talent, but I remember a team several years back that was loaded with talent, three early round draft picks and the first pick overall, but that did not translate into wins on the field. That coach is now in Talahassee and we now have a coach who is building a team. UNC may have more talent, but I think State right now has a better team. I think that State winning this game is a very realistic expectation. I am not saying that we will, but I will not be surprised if we do.

  7. BJD95 11/19/2008 at 8:27 PM #

    UNC fans have told me the same thing that Wake fans did last week – their teams live off turnovers, specifically turning TOs into points.

    Russell Wilson does not turn the ball over. Big advantage to State.

    Also note that “bend but don’t break” should work great against the Holes (especially since we’re much better at it now that our one playmaker is back). They have big play WRs, but if we can keep them in front of the DBs, UNC is not the kind of patient offense that will kill you slowly.

    I looked at the Wake/State game as an essentially even contest. Give a 6-point swing for home field, and UNC should be about a 6-9 point favorite.

    FWIW, the line in the newspaper opened at 13, but is now down to 11.

  8. packpowerfan 11/19/2008 at 8:52 PM #

    As a student…this makes me ok with Homeland Security ripping my apartment apart after I being plotting against these POS UNX kids:


  9. Ismael 11/19/2008 at 9:03 PM #

    My analysis (i wish i could get paid ((or was good enough to get paid i guess) for it)

    QB: +ncsu
    OL: draw (i think we may have an edge)
    RB: +ncsu
    FB: draw (ours is faster, ‘holes guy has more experience, may not matter 11 games into the season)
    TE: ++ncsu
    WR: +ncsu (we have 4 very good WR’s, ‘holes have one excellent and one very good)

    DL: draw (i think)
    DE: +holes (i love our guys, but ‘holes have depth and experience)
    LB: draw (nate is the man, but bruce carter is pretty damn good too)
    CB: +holes/draw (Morgan is becoming really good after he was benched, Gray is solid, but ‘holes have two pretty good CB’s and i think we drop off some in man situations)
    S: draw (johnson cancels goddard, we may a little more depth though with Simmons and Byers both playing, JC Neal very very serviceable)

    Special Teams:
    Returns: +ncsu (TJ and the Neal reverse threat are for real)
    Coverage: draw (We haven’t allowed a return for TD since TOB got here, our coverage is pretty good. )
    Punting: with both schools you never know
    FG’s: draw (both have looked shaky and our guy hasn’t kicked anything over 35yds i think).

    Coaching: as VaWolf did NOT say: @ UVa, UNCCH got the ball with 42 seconds and timeouts and decided to kill the clock, what kind of brain fart, short bus, crap was that.

    Rivalry factor: +we hate them more
    Location: — their Hole
    Recent History: ++ncsu (we played them last year, almost identical teams, and ran the ball all over them with one healthy back and Daniel Evans. Does anybody even remember what that kid looks like?? anyhoo, it was only even close because of 2 pick 6’s, one in the f’ing red zone).

    Final Analysis: I see us possibly winning big, more likely the game is close, either way (win or lose), but i don’t see us getting embarrassed, God knows.

  10. packpowerfan 11/19/2008 at 9:07 PM #

    Too late for me to correct that should be “begin plotting”. I was so enraged that my fingers weren’t working properly.

  11. choppack1 11/19/2008 at 9:34 PM #

    We have 2 common opponents – BC and UMd.

    I don’t want to play the team that played BC, GaTech, Miami, Rutgers or UConn. I wouldn’t mind facing the team that played UMd, Notre Dame, VaTech and Uva.

    I guess the games that surprise me are the BC and GaTech games. After BC got off to a good start, the Heels absolutely destroyed them. They also beat the team who is playing arguably the best football in the conference right now at home.

    I don’t buy the “they haven’t done well in close games” argument. While all 3 of the games they’ve lost have been close – they’ve won close games vs. Miami and the Domers. They’ve gotten down early vs. Rutgers, Miami, Notre Dame, and BC and come back. As VaWolf notes – in all 3 of their losses, they’ve had the lead and lost it. (I can think of another team that had 3 losses where it led and had very good chances to win all 3 of it’s losses.)

    Strange team – I can’t decide if they are better than their record or worse than it. OTOH, I know our team – w/ a healthy RW, Nate Irving and AMC – is certainly better than its record.

    Man – this game could go either way. I can see us beating them like no one has beaten them this year – I think our QB play, rushing attack and D are capable of that. OTOH, they could block a punt or two – shred us w/ their wideouts running reversals, screens and trick plays – and their D could bend and not break – and we could get blown out.

  12. Ismael 11/19/2008 at 9:39 PM #

    if u go to their miami win and the ND game right after that, the miami guy caught the ball in the endzone for the win and goddard knocks it out of his hands, its of course a win for them, but in really, i mean comeon, its a loss, to a good team either way.

    ND was driving for the win and UNCCH causes a fumble at the 4 yard line; the guy was just trying to get more yardage, should have went down, those are two crazy lucky plays to get 2 wins.

  13. backinpack 11/19/2008 at 9:46 PM #

    Man – this came could go either way. I can see us beating them like no one has beaten them this year – I think our QB play, rushing attack and D are capable of that. OTOH, they could block a punt or two – shred us w/ their wideouts running reversals, screens and trick plays – and their D could bend and not break – and we could get blown out.

    I feel the same as you, choppack1. I think it has the chance to be a good game, but I also think it might be over in the first half if one team isn’t careful.

    I’m going to miss the game (despite 2 offers of free tickets), so anyone that goes, cheer loud and don’t forget the ‘words’ to the State fight song when it’s played.

  14. BJD95 11/19/2008 at 9:48 PM #

    There is no way on earth that WR is advantage: NC State. The biggest talent discrepancy on the field is UNC’s WRs vs. ours.

  15. VaWolf82 11/19/2008 at 11:03 PM #

    Strange team – I can’t decide if they are better than their record or worse than it.

    Great comment. But then again, you could say that about almost every team in the ACC. The ACC appears to be filled top to bottom with teams that are frankly not very good and are extremely erratic in their play. Thus you get Duke beating the crap out of UVA who then turns around and beats the crap out of UMD.

    Who is better? Flip a coin…that’s probably at least as accurate as a Vegas line.

  16. b 11/20/2008 at 12:59 AM #

    Agree w/BJD95 on the WR’s. Hicks, Foster and Arnold are all better than our best guy Spencer. I would say the RBs is a close call too. Draughn has outgained Brown by as much as Eugene has outgained Houston, and they run with better power, though our guys are better out of the backfield. Safeties is a no brainer to UNC really, and their 2nd and 3rd LB’s are better than ours. Our D-line is better or at least has more playmakers.

    I don’t see UNC forcing TOs as much as they “receive” them, but even a draw in the TO battle would be to our favor. Our kicking units are better, but they defend/block kicks well which could balance the disparity in return yardage. Pierson isn’t coming off his best perfromance of the year either.

    I think Archer’s defense can manage the Holes running game, but they are gonna get 3-4 big plays in the passing game. They have proven too good at it for State’s glaring weakness to resist for four quarters. The real key is how our run game fairs. We run for 150 or more and the game should be within reach, where our coaching should prevail like LY.

    RW may not be able to fill out the running game as much as he has recently, against a defense that lives in zone coverage, but his scrambling against a slow D-line ought to open holes in coverage.

    Overall I agree with the tone of the post. There’s nothing about UNC that leads me to the opinion they are better than FSU, Wake or Maryland. And if I hadn’t watched them thrash BC I wouldn’t believe it possible, except Crane was in TO machine mode that day.

    But a 2 TD favorite? I invite it, because the longer it’s close, the more puckered up they will get. And they have certainly proven as much as they get lucky late, they get dumb late, too.

  17. haze 11/20/2008 at 7:53 AM #

    The betting line is too big but, as noted, that doesn’t mean that UNC can’t cover.

    Aside from the eternal need to be strong on the LOS, the glaring needs for NC State are good tackling, especially by the CB’s, and continued awesome-ness from Russell Wilson.

    To the first point, Nicks & Foster are going to get some catches, we just need to keep them in front of us and limit the YAC. Ditto for Draughn, who isn’t that big of a back. If you wrap up, you can put him down for only moderate gains… Nate Irving, please stay healthy for these 4 quarters.

    On O, we have a running game (if you can run on BC and FSU, you can run on UNC) and can put the ball up pretty well. What we simply cannot do is give up TO’s. By all appearances, we have the right guy at the trigger to pull this off. Unless Russell goes out of character, we should be in this game the whole way.

  18. BoKnowsNCS71 11/20/2008 at 8:11 AM #

    The game should be similar to last year with fewer Pick 6’s Take State and the spread.

  19. Classof89 11/20/2008 at 10:04 AM #

    agreed on the erratic play of all the ACC teams this season. Virginia’s beatdown of Maryland right now stands (to me) as the strangest result of the season…Like I said for Wake, I will be shocked if we don’t come out pumped for this game and playing well. I worry about those inexplicable short stretches in games where we seemingly forget how to play defense (like the 1st half ending drive we gave up against Wake). I have hopes that we win the field position battle, since folks are sky-kicking kickoffs to us to avoid Graham.

  20. choppack1 11/20/2008 at 10:38 AM #

    “The ACC appears to be filled top to bottom with teams that are frankly not very good and are extremely erratic in their play. Thus you get Duke beating the crap out of UVA who then turns around and beats the crap out of UMD.”

    That’s definitely true – but UNC-Ch has probably been the most consistent of the bunch. They’ve been in every ACC game they’ve played and have yet to have the brain fart that has hit Wake, BC, UMd, UVa, GaTech and FSU at one point or the other.

    But, ironically, we haven’t had that brain fart either in our conference games. Even in our game vs. Clemson, we were in the game until about 5 minutes left in the game. In our other 3 conference losses, we had a lead or were tied in the 4th quarter.

    Russell Wilson may also be the best QB the Tar Heel D has faced this year. Man, I’m totally manic about this game.

  21. Noah 11/20/2008 at 10:49 AM #

    I do not gamble, but I used to play in virtual pools a few years ago. The thing I noticed about the college lines was that every week, there would be a few regional games that didn’t appear to get the scrutiny they probably should have. So, you’d end up with a game like ECU vs. Central Florida and the line would be way off simply because the people who set the lines didn’t have very clear reads. You end up with a few sucker bets every week just by being a little more informed if you made one region your “home base.”

    This line sort of strikes me that way. I think Vegas is looking at UNC’s win over Notre Dame and their previous top-20 ranking and thinking we’re the same team that got killed at the start of the year by South Carolina.

  22. choppack1 11/20/2008 at 11:05 AM #

    Noah – you are correct. I’m surprised though that the big guns in Vegas haven’t noted how well we’ve fared vs. the spread lately. I know that isn’t really considered when setting a line, but you’d think that would have figured out that NC State has displayed remarkable improvement throughout the year. It may end up meaning nothing – but you’re talking about a team that has made drastic improvements on both sides of the ball in the conference slate.

  23. ChiefJoJo 11/20/2008 at 11:51 AM #

    I definitely agree with BJD95 that UNC’s WRs are better than ours. It’s not that close really. We do have size, but Spencer has got to catch the ball this week. I’m not sure we can withstand many more drops of sure 60+ yd TD passes vs. quality opponents.

    I’ll take Wilson over their QB (whoever that may be), and I like our RBs. The OLs are a wash. Despite our having Cash & Nate, UNC gets the edge on defense, with better depth and overall personnel at DL, LB, and DB, but not by a wide margin. As VaWolf mentioned, they have been living by their defense converting TOs into points, and they have some playmakers back there in Carter, Sturdivant, and Goddard.

    I really like our chances with Wilson at QB, and Brown/Eugene running the ball. If RW continues to play well, his ability to be efficient with the ball negates UNC’s defensive prowess in turning mistakes into points. Our biggest weakness–pass defense–could certainly be exposed by Nicks & Co. He’ll get his touches, but we’ve got to limit big plays & also not allow Yates to get too comfortable. On special teams, we just need to play even, and allow no blocked kicks.

    I like TOB’s emphasis on this game vs. Butch’s strategy to downplay it. We’re coming as healthy and with as much confidence as we’ve had all year. I think our guys will be ready, the defense will bend but make enough plays, and we’ll cash in on one of those elusive big plays in the passing game. I have a gut feeling that once again, it comes down to the last series… State 27 – UNC 24.

  24. Dr. BadgerPack 11/20/2008 at 12:44 PM #

    Remember, the line isn’t a reflection of how much better one team is perceived to be. It is set to generate roughly even betting distribution between the teams. This line would seem to indicate UNC is bet on more– and I suppose this makes since, as the number of UNC fans is way more than the number of NC State fans (so, if a given % of the population gambles, you figure more UNC gamblers). The line either backs them off, or invites the non-aligned to bet NC State.

    Or, it could simply reflect that NC State fans aren’t dumb, and we need lots of points. 🙂

  25. GAWolf 11/20/2008 at 1:03 PM #

    Spencer will catch the ball this week. I watched the game again Tuesday night on DVR. He got pounded on one of the drops, interfered with on the other (or at least was extremely well defended and wrapped up), and had the one big TD drop that was well… a drop.

    This is a huge opportunity for him to shake it off and make plays.

    I had a coach once that said if you make the easy plays that come your way you’ll only have to make the rare exceptional play to be exceptional. If you miss the easy ones, you have to make a lot of exceptional plays to be only average.

    With the mind set and aura around the team under the previous staff I’m not confident I could be so sure that Spencer will have the proper attitude around him in practice this week to shake off his previous performance. I think he’ll be fine. He gets open a lot and that’s task number one for a receiver. Task number two is to catch the ball and all he needs to do is be confident enough to make all the easy plays. The exceptional plays are sure to follow…

    Also, Jeremy Gray made some exceptional plays against Wake that I either didn’t recognize or missed while at the game. Also, we’ve heard the statement by TOB that our DB’s didn’t miss a tackle… or at least the safeties maybe. If our defensive backfield can again make all the easy plays and tackles and keep the Carolina receivers in front of them, I really think we’ll be okay.

    Make all the easy plays by being focused on the job at hand and occasionally you’ll luck up and make an exceptional play even if it’s by accident… the result is an exceptional game.

    Our guys are all capable of that.

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