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Advanced metrics on UNC at FSU

What do the nerd numbers say about the game?

There has been more than a little tumult surrounding Florida State's defensive underperformance so far this year. Fans haven't had to go out of their way to see extensive and sometimes ridiculous discussion regarding what's wrong, what needs to be fixed, and who - if anybody - needs to be fired. Instead of dwelling on the inadequacies of Florida State's defense for now, it's fair to just say that UNC on its face looks pretty frightening. UNC has the 7thranked offense in the nation per S&P+. Here's a summary comparing UNC to the gauntlet of offenses the Seminoles have faced to date:



Team Yards

Per Play

Team Yards

Per carry

Starting QB

Yards per att.

20+ yd plays

from scrimmage

UNC 6th 38th 9th (tie) 5th (tie)
Ole Miss 15th 82nd 9th (tie) 5th (tie)
Louisville 1st 1st 3rd 1st
South Florida. 8th 6th 8th 5th (tie)

You'll notice that right now all four of FSU's first four FBS opponents are in the top-5 nationally in 20+ yard plays from scrimmage, which is just simply ridiculous. Ole Miss, South Florida and UNC each have 28 a piece, and Louisville leads the nation with 41. Yikes.

There is even more cause for concern the deepeer you dig: UNC starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky has not thrown an interception in all 137 attempts this season, and is second in the nation in completion percentage. This is definitely a weakness for an FSU defense that has proven uncharacteristically adept at turning bad throws into interceptions this year (10th in the nation this year with 6) but has almost relied on inaccurate passing to keep from being further gashed downfield. Combine that with North Carolina's HUNH system (27th in points per game compared to 126th in time of possession), and it starts to look like there could not be a worse team to play to inspire confidence in a defense that is ranked outside the top-100 in just about every simple defensive metric that college football tracks.

It's a little surprising then, that just about every predictive model has FSU not only winning, but winning big. The Football Power Index, the Fremeau Index, and S&P+ are probably the three most popular win-probability algorithms available today. Here's an average of the three for every game left on FSU's schedule, ranked from lowest to highest:

Not only is UNC well outside of that "danger zone" territory of games where FSU is less than 70% likely to win, but they're actually behind an NC State team fresh of a loss to East Carolina. So what gives? UNC's defense does, constantly.

Through four games, they have struggled tremendously with any kind of running. UNC is 108th in long rushing plays allowed (8 20+ yard runs), 105th in simple yards per carry allowed (4.98ypc), and 107th in stuffing runs at-or-behind the line of scrimmage (14.5% of all designed rushes). Georgia averaged 1.4 yards per carry more against UNC than they have any of their other three opponents this year, Illinois average 4 yards per carry more against UNC than their only other FBS opponent (Western Michigan).

Thinking about what UNC could do through the air against this injured and inexperienced secondary should give you chills, but thinking about what Dalvin Cook & Jacques Patrick could do against this UNC front seven should provide at least an offsetting amount of warmth.

Though the Tarheels are not quite as horrifying at defending the pass, there is still plenty of room for FSU to operate. UNC ranks 70th in passer rating allowed by opposing quarterbacks, allowing 6.8 yards per attempt and only 4 touchdowns, but no interceptions. A further sigh of relief for the FSU offense, UNC has also consistently struggled to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks, ranking 79th nationally in % of defensive snaps that resulted in a sack or a tackle for loss, a mere 10.9% of the time. Florida State has done a miserable job of keeping Francois upright, giving up 14 sacks through 4 games, ranking them 118th nationally; UNC's inability to create pressure further bolsters what looks to be another chance for a big offensive statement from FSU, who seems to be only capable of making statements on offense anyways.

There is little reason to believe UNC won't score plenty of points, as UNC fits right in line statistically and stylistically with a USF and Ole Miss squad that both dropped 35+ on the Noles. Maybe home field will help deliver an defensive spark for a team that badly needs one, this is after all Florida State's first home FBS game of the season. But even if the defense continues to fail to live up to its lofty preseason expectations, there's still plenty of reason to believe the offense can carry this team to victory for another week.