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Meet UNC, which has a cannon for an offense and a somewhat more useful defense

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We knew a couple things about North Carolina heading into 2015: one, they brought just about everybody back on offense, and that was probably going to be an area of strength; two, it shouldn't take more than the most fundamental tweaks to make the defense better.

The offense is a strength, and the defense is better, if not particularly noteworthy. The combination has allowed the Tar Heels to roll through the Coastal Division this season, winning four of seven league games by multiple scores. Carolina hasn't lost since the opening week of the season, when Marquise Williams was busy throwing away the team's playoff hopes.

UNC Offense Off. S&P+ national rank Yds/Play
(national rank)
(national rank)
Yds/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 22
7.4 (2) 5.7 (6) 9.8 (4)
2014 25 5.6 (66) 4.0 (89) 7.1 (62)

That's hard to reconcile, right? The per-play numbers are much better in 2015, but the opponent-adjusted ranking for the offense is about the same as it was in 2014. Elijah Hood is the difference-maker for this Tar Heels offense, though, and I think it's fair to say they're a tier above where they were last season. Marquise Williams was this team's leading rusher in 2014. Hood is leading the way this year with more than 1,000 yards, despite getting only about 16 carries per game.

Hood's emergence has given UNC some deadly play-action opportunities that did not exist last season. And Marquise Williams remains a solid runner for this team, with 700+ on the ground for the second consecutive season. He's also completing nearly 65% of his passes and is on pace for a career-high in passer efficiency.

The Tar Heels have great depth at receiver--eight players have at least 10 receptions, led by Quinshad Davis and Ryan Switzer, who have 83 grabs between them. Mack Hollins has 23 catches for 605 yards (26.3 per catch), which is a pretty good Owen Spencer impersonation.

Ultimately this all revolves back to Hood, who might be underutilized at times, but who remains a constant threat while on the field. North Carolina forces defenses to think about a heck of a lot, and it has the veteran quarterback to make those defenses pay for the smallest mistakes.

UNC Defense Def. S&P+ national rank Yds Allowed/Play
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Rush
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 58
5.2 (40) 4.5 (85) 6.0 (17)
2014 99 6.5 (117) 5.2 (108) 8.5 (121)

Bring in a new defensive coordinator, tighten some screws here and there, and hey! It's an average defense! UNC was a wretched collection of sorrow at the defensive end in 2014, and there was no better example of this than State's game in Chapel Hill. The Heels still don't have any particular strengths, but they've moved up a level or two from oh-no-it's-crying-time-again to well-that's-okay-I-suppose.

UNC has the better offense. NC State is a bit better defensively. There's the Carter-Finley crowd x-factor. This should be something.