N. C. State vs. UNC: Expect a Big Game for Glennon?

Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE

Bryan Underwood and the Wolfpack receiving corps should have plenty of room to operate Saturday.

How does a team rank 20th in the nation in total offense (477.5) and 25th in scoring defense (19.3) yet only go 5-3 over its first 8 games? Scheduling. The Football Outsiders rank North Carolina's schedule as the 99th "most difficult" out of 124 FBS schools (to be fair, N. C. State's slate is not much more impressive at 81st). Wins over lightweights FCS Elon (62-0), Idaho (66-0), and East Carolina (27-6), the 123rd and 105th ranked teams in FBS, respectively, have helped the Heels put up impressive national rankings in most major statistical categories.

For example, the Tarheels are 29th in rushing offense (206.4) and 37th in passing offense (271.1). On defense, UNC ranks 25th in rushing yards allowed per game (116.5) and 36th in total defense (349.9). On the surface, it appears that the only part of their game that has struggled under first-year head coach Lawrence Fedora is the passing defense, which ranks 71st (233.4).

To date, the Tarheels have played two top-50 offenses in Louisville (22nd) and Duke (50th); in both instances they were torched defensively and ended up losing on decisive plays in the waning seconds. Theodore Bridgewater and company posted 462 yards of total offense in their 39-34 win. The Cardinals averaged 6.5 yards per play overall, including 10 yards per pass attempt en route to 279 yards through the air, and they barely attempted a second-half pass while trying to milk the clock and hold on to their lead (a strategy that nearly backfired when the Heels put up 20 fourth-quarter points).

The Blue Devils painted the Carolina defense black and blue en route to painting the victory bell Duke blue. The sparse but proud faithful in Wallace-Wade watched the home team compile 510 yards of offense. Duke did not have huge per play numbers (5.7), but used a balanced attack (276 yards passing/234 yards rushing) to control the ball and run up almost 34 minutes of possession time. One of the best ways to slow the Fedora Express is to keep it off the field, and certainly that will be in the minds of Tom O'Brien and Dana Bible on Saturday.

Football Outsiders' advanced metrics appear to paint an accurate picture of the Heels. Not surprisingly under the helm of spread-guru Fedora, the offense is much improved, jumping from 46th last year to 18th this year. But despite their impressive points per game allowed, the Heels defense has fallen off a cliff, dropping from 26th last year to 70th this year. From the ACC, only Georgia Tech (73rd), Miami (85th), and Boston College (97th) are worse. Again, when Carolina has played anything resembling a competent offense, it has allowed a lot of points. Even struggling Tanner Price and Wake Forest put up 28 points, the most it has managed all year save for the game against 1-6 Army. Struggling Logan Thomas threw for 354 yards and the Hokies put up 34 points in a losing effort.

The Wolfpack will bring the second best offense UNC has seen this season to Chapel Hill, and the Pack's strength, fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Glennon and his 284 yards passing per game, should be able to exploit the Tarheels' biggest weakness. Led by Giovani Bernard, UNC's offense will be the best outfit the Pack have faced all year. If the defense that showed up for the second half of the Florida State game rears its head Saturday afternoon, the Pack should pull away and make it 6 straight in the series. But that defense has been missing for most of the season and did little to inspire confidence while yielding 462 yards against the formerly inept Fighting Edsall offense last week.

Even though both of these teams are yielding in the neighborhood of 20 points per game (State's mark of 20.1 is 28th in the nation), expect a shootout Saturday at high noon thirty. Last team with the ball wins?

2011

N. C. State

Football Outsiders Metric

North Carolina

50

Overall FEI

41

58

Offensive FEI

46

25

Defensive FEI

26

92

Special Teams Efficiency

89

2012

N. C. State

Football Outsiders Metric

North Carolina

33

Overall FEI

39

38

Offensive FEI

18

44

Defensive FEI

70

82

Special Teams Efficiency

18

North Carolina FBS Opponent O Efficiency Rankings:

1. Wake Forest 98th

2. Louisville 22nd

3. East Carolina 106th

4. Idaho 120th

5. Virginia Tech 57th

6. Miami 62nd

7. Duke 50th

North Carolina FBS Opponent D Efficiency Rankings:

1. Wake Forest 38th

2. Louisville 28th

3. East Carolina 94th

4. Idaho 100th

5. Virginia Tech 31st

6. Miami 85th

7. Duke 69h

N. C. State FBS Opponent O Efficiency Rankings:

1. Tennessee 39th

2. UConn 104th

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

4. Miami 62nd

5. Florida State 45th

6. Maryland 64th

N. C. State FBS Opponent D Efficiency Rankings:

1. Tennessee 74th

2. UConn 29th

3. South Alabama 79th

4. Miami 85th

5. Florida State 5th

6. Maryland 36th

ACC Overall FEI Rankings (national rank in parentheses):

1. Florida State (8th)

2. Clemson (23rd)

3. N. C. State (33rd)

4. North Carolina (39th)

5. Virginia Tech (47th)

6. Georgia Tech (55th)

7. Maryland (57th)

8. Duke (71st)

9. Miami (73rd)

10. Wake Forest (75th)

11. Virginia (84th)

12. Boston College (92nd)

For an explanation of Football Outsiders' advanced metrics click here.

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