N. C. State at Maryland: Two Programs on the Rise?

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The Fighting Edsalls are coming out of their shells and climbing the pyramid of success.

ESPN Insider columnist and Football Outsiders guru Brian Fremeau's efficiency ratings paint N. C. State and Maryland as programs on the rise in 2012. Granted, after a 2-10 season in 2011, the Fighting Edsalls had nowhere to go but up. A win at home Saturday over the Wolfpack and Edsall's squad moves to 3-0 in league play and legitimizes itself as an ACC championship contender; no one expected a team torn by defections and injuries to climb the pyramid of success so fast.

As the charts below indicate, Maryland's turnaround is fueled by dramatic efficiency increases across the board, but especially defensively. However, the Terps are probably not as good on defense as the raw numbers (9th nationally in total defense; 32nd in scoring defense) suggest. Despite allowing gobs less yardage than the Wolfpack, Maryland is only 2 spots ahead of the Pack in the defensive efficiency ratings because, with the exception of West Virginia, Maryland has played a who's who of woeful offenses so far in 2012. The average offensive efficiency ranking of Terp opponents is 77th, and that is not including Bill & Mary, a 2-5 FCS squad.

Maryland actually gets more props on offense than one might expect; the Terps rank 57th in offensive efficiency despite ranking 123rd, next to dead last, in total offense. With the obvious exception of the Mountaineers, it's like Maryland has been facing a mirror image of itself each week: solid defense, bad offense. The average defensive efficiency rating of Terp opponents is 42nd, which explains why their offense may be a bit more potent than the raw numbers indicate. Certainly freshman QB Perry Hills seems to be getting better with each additional week of experience.

In terms of both offensive and defensive efficiency, N. C. State will be the second best team the Terps have faced this season. Of course the top offensive opponent, West Virginia, is flawed defensively (51st), and the top defensive opponent, UConn, is deeply, deeply, cavernously flawed offensively (103rd). In their upset of Florida State, the Wolfpack showed that they have the chance to be the total package: a stout defensive team with an offense that can make enough plays to win even against an elite defense. When the Pack takes care of the ball and limits opponents' big plays, they are a legit threat to crash FSU and Clemson's recent stranglehold on the conference championship party. Will that State team show up on Saturday?

Surprisingly after last season's 2-10 campaign, Maryland is poised to play party crasher too. This is a big game. The loser will have to readjust its sights from "Championship, baby!" to "Let's see if we can get bowl eligible!"

For what it's worth, Vegas likes the Pack by 3.

2011

N. C. State

Football Outsiders Metric

Maryland

50

Overall FEI

81

58

Offensive FEI

75

25

Defensive FEI

74

92

Special Teams Efficiency

102

2012

N. C. State

Football Outsiders Metric

Maryland

28

Overall FEI

50

29

Offensive FEI

57

38

Defensive FEI

36

85

Special Teams Efficiency

48

Maryland Opponent O Efficiency Rankings:

1. Temple 86th

2. UConn 103rd

3. WVU 12th

4. Wake Forest 100th

5. Virginia 84th

Maryland Opponent D Efficiency Rankings:

1. Temple 42nd

2. UConn 17th

3. WVU 51st

4. Wake Forest 40th

5. Virginia 59th

N. C. State Opponent O Efficiency Rankings:

1. Tennessee 21st

2. UConn 103rd

3. South Alabama 124th (that's LAST)

4. Miami 51st

5. Florida State 45th

N. C. State Opponent D Efficiency Rankings:

1. Tennessee 56th

2. UConn 17th

3. South Alabama 72nd

4. Miami 93rd

5. Florida State 4th

ACC Overall FEI Rankings (national rank in parentheses):

1. Florida State (7th)

2. Clemson (26th)

3. N. C. State (28th)

4. North Carolina (36th)

5. Maryland (50th)

6. Virginia Tech (52nd)

7. Georgia Tech (56th)

8. Miami (72nd)

9. Wake Forest (82nd)

10. Duke (89th)

11. Boston College (90th)

12. Virginia (91st)

An explanation of the Football Outsiders efficiency rankings can be found here.

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