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Tale of the Tape: UNC-Duke

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A statistical look at UNC's match-up with Duke.

When UNC has the ball

UNC(Offense) Duke(Defense)
Points per game 36.9 16.1
Yards per game 469.0 295.0
Yards per play 7.46 4.2
Passing yards 259.8 166.1
Passing YPA 9.5 6.1
Rushing Yards 210.13 128.9
Rushing YPA 5.9 3.0
Turnovers 9 11
3rd Down Conv. 46.59% 30.8%
4th Down Conv. 50.00% 35.7%
Red Zone Conv. 88.24% 87.5%


When UNC is on defense

UNC(Defense) Duke(Offense)
Points per game 17.0 32.6
Yards per game 358.0 420.8
Yards per play 4.94 5.4
Passing yards 152.9 240.1
Passing YPA 5.6 6.6
Rushing Yards 205.13 180.6
Rushing YPA 4.56 4.3
Turnovers 14 9
3rd Down Conv. 41.46% 43.3%
4th Down Conv. 50.00% 40.0%
Red Zone Conv. 76.00% 83.8%


According to the numbers this is one of the best offenses in the country facing on of the best defenses in the country based on yards per play.

In UNC's case Duke will be the best defense the Tar Heels have face. Duke is 5th in yards per play allowed giving up just 4.18.

UNC FBS Opponents Defensive Yards Per Play

Team Yards Per Play National Rank
South Carolina 6.07 108th
Illinois 4.91 33rd
Georgia Tech 5.68 75th
Wake Forest 5.49 60th
Virginia 6.19 111th
Pittsburgh 5.54 65th


Illinois is the best defense UNC has seen so far and the Tar Heels trucked the Illini in impressive fashion for 48 points and 471 yards. However three of UNC's least productive games have come at the hands of the 108th and 111th ranked defenses plus FCS North Carolina A&T. Two of those games(South Carolina and Virginia) the Tar Heels did not play a clean game with two or more turnovers. UNC had little trouble moving the ball but turnovers played havoc with the point production. Carolina's ability to play a clean game is critical to the effectiveness of the offense against any defense.

On the flip side, UNC will be by far the best offensive unit Duke has faced this season. UNC is 3rd nationally with almost 7.5 yards per play behind just Baylor and TCU.

Duke FBS Opponents Offensive Yards Per Play

Team Yards Per Play National Rank
Tulane 4.60 119th
Northwestern 4.56 121st
Georgia Tech 6.15 33rd
Boston College 4.36 125th
Army 5.75 56th
Virginia Tech 5.18 101st
Miami 5.84 48th


Interestingly, the best offense on this list was the game Duke posted it's lowest yards per play allowed of the season. In beating Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils surrendered less than four yards per play in that game.  Duke held the Yellow Jackets to 2.88 yards per carry rushing and by taking an early lead also forced Georgia Tech into 6-22 passing for just 143 yards. The second best team on the list, Miami, posted 5.75 yards per play last week against the Blue Devils, a season worst for the Duke defense.

The question is which strength wins out? Both have been very good in their respective area of strength however the caliber of offensive units Duke has face have been slightly worse than what UNC's offense has seen from opposing defenses. Four of Duke's opponents are outside the top 100 in offensive yards per play including three 119th or worse. The defenses the Tar Heels have faced have been been mostly average and against just those teams the Tar Heels are at 7.47 yards per play.

The diversity and depth of UNC's offensive weapons gives the Tar Heels a good chance at denting Duke's formidable defense, providing the Tar Heels take care of the football. Two of UNC's three lowest scoring games have included multiple turnovers. The Tar Heels gave the ball away three times in scoring just 13 points versus South Carolina and two turnovers in the 26-13 win over Virginia. Teams are scoring 88% of the time they enter the red zone versus Duke. If UNC can take care of the ball and move deep into the territory, points should result.

On the other side of the match-up, UNC's defense will face a good running team with a mobile quarterback. This has been an area of weakness for the Tar Heels and if UNC continues to struggle getting stops on third down, Duke certainly can find ways to put points on the board.