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Football: North Carolina Advanced Stats Preview

Taking an in-depth look at this week's matchup between Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Last year's game between these two teams was incredible. Yea, we lost, but beyond that this game was freaking awesome, seriously, watch the highlights. This year I'm not sure we are in for the same fireworks. Both offense's are struggling so far this year. They both have the talent to hopefully score a lot of points, but who knows if they will figure it out on Saturday.

Computer Ranks

Model GT UNC
S&P+ 26 61
FEI 18 45
FPI 18 31
MELLS 30 61

Pretty decided advantage to Georgia Tech here, and that's even without considering Home Field Advantage. Vegas has Georgia Tech as a 7 point favorite. The computer models are all much more confident about a Tech victory; S&P+ projects us to win 36 - 22 (78% of winning), FEI projects us to win 36 - 19 (86%), FPI projects us to win by 8 (72%), and my MELLS model projects us to win 32 - 22 (66%). Basically, Tech has the same odds of winning as you do of flipping two coins in a row and NOT getting two heads.

When Georgia Tech has the Ball

This plot shows the projected points better than an average team by unit. For example North Carolina's rushing defense is about 2 points worse than an average NCAA team.


  • I'm a little surprised that Georgia Tech's rushing offense is still rated so high. I have us as the 16th best rushing offense in the country, and S&P+ isn't too far behind at 29th overall. However, I think Tech's numbers are really just inflated from their first two games (and pre-season projections).
    These numbers aren't opponent adjusted but they are the underlying values that feed into the opponent adjust model that makes up my MELLS projections. I don't think my model is adjusting for opponent as much as it should, but even our 25th percentile performance against Duke's defense is impressive, their rushing defense is ranked 10th in the country according to my model.
  • But it almost doesn't matter what opponent adjustments are included yet, it's clear UNC's rushing defense could use some work. S&P+ rates UNC's rushing defense as the 126th ranked team in the country...there are only 128 teams in FBS. Needless to say, project Tech to have some success on the ground in this game.
  • UNC's strong pass defense is propped up greatly by their performance against the FCS teams they have played. 
    This chart shows the offense's performance percentile that UNC's defense faced, so a lower percentile is better for UNC's defense. I don't think either performance against USCe and Illinois is really anything to make UNC deserve such a high ranking.

When UNC has the Ball


  • I'm pretty surprised by this, I have been very impressed with Tech's defense so far this year. S&P+ also backs this up, they have us a perfectly average rushing defense and the 39th ranked pass defense. One thing that could be hurting us is our Havoc Rate. Havoc Rate is a stat by Bill C that finds the percentage of plays that a defense causes "havoc" which are Tackles for Loss, Sacks, Pass Breakups, and INTs. Tech ranks 86th in the country in this stat. If we don't get more pressure, on the whole offense, we may just have another "death by a thousand cuts" season on our hands. I don't think that's where this defense is headed, especially in this game, but it's something to keep an eye on.
  • But UNC's offense, man, what happened? Last year they ranked 25th in the country in S&P+, this year they are down to 46th, against a pretty easy schedule. This year Marquise Williams ranks 61st in QBR, last year he was 38th. Let's please don't let our game be the game he figures it all back out.
There are a lot of reasons to like Georgia Tech in this game. However, one big, or I guess you could say small reason, to like UNC and his name is Ryan Switzer. He already has one punt return for a touchdown on the season and our special teams has obviously struggled. Want to know how UNC wins this week? The exact same way we lost to Duke. There is no reason to think UNC will outplay Tech in other facets of the game based on their past performance this season, but they may hit some big plays on special teams. Without those, I think Tech wins comfortably.

Comments, questions, or suggestions? Put them below in the comments or hit me up on twitter.