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UNC Football by the Numbers: Week Six Metrics and Projections

Check out how the Tar Heels stack up nationally in some advanced statistics.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Week Five is in the books, and although Carolina did not take the field this past weekend, college football still produced a Saturday of enjoyment and excitement. We saw critical matchups, video game statistics, and thrilling finishes nationwide. As the Tar Heels sit comfortably in the AP and Coaches Poll and continue to be in the handful of remaining unbeatens, optimism is high in Chapel Hill. But how good has this UNC team really been? Look no further than some various statistics and advanced metrics that explain a little more about this football team than a national ranking or record. At the end of the day, the product on the field is what should produce the analysis, but diving into some of these numbers brings light to some parts of Carolina Football that are not as easily noticed and recorded. Here are some numbers and statistics as food for thought about how we can analyze this UNC team so far and moving forward.

Team Statistics

  • North Carolina is 2nd in the country in 3rd down conversion percentage. (.579)
  • North Carolina is 29th in the country in red zone defense.
  • North Carolina is 21st in the country in fewest penalty yards (185)
  • North Carolina is 14th in the country in completion percentage (.727)
  • North Carolina is 129th (out of 130) in the country in kickoff return defense.
  • North Carolina is 20th in the country in passing offense.
  • North Carolina is top 50 (or better) in the country in team tackles for loss, team sacks, team passing efficiency defense, red zone defense, 1st down defense, and 4th down conversion percentage defense.

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These numbers suggest North Carolina may be more suited for long-term success than in years past. So many of these defensive stats being in the top third of the FBS is a night-and-day difference from previous seasons. While still significantly weaker than the offense, it looks to be a serviceable unit with the potential to be good and, most importantly, consistent enough through four games to be able to lean on, as we have seen. The offense is not as electric and big-hitting as in years past, as the balanced attack and game management have muffled the absurd numbers. That does not mean they have failed to meet expectations. UNC has been beyond efficient on third down and is effective in the run and pass game to make their identity hard to prepare for. There is always more than can be said about stats, but these numbers suggest one blaring conclusion: this team is more complete than any team in the Mack is back era.

Advanced Metrics & Projections

Moving onto a more profound analysis of this UNC team, various sites that account for advanced metrics produce charts and graphs to predict and break down more about what we have seen (and will see) from the Tar Heels. Kelly Ford Rankings, a popular site that does just this, introduces fans to a different way of viewing the Heels. UNC is ranked 21st in his power rankings, ahead of ACC foes Duke and Syracuse, but behind Florida State, Miami (FL), and Clemson. Breaking down these rankings, Carolina comes in at 11th in the country offensively and 48th defensively.

While these current numbers are compelling to look at, where I get intrigued is looking ahead. KFord has UNC as favorites in 6 of their last 8 games and with a 49% chance to win 10+ games in the regular season. For what it’s worth, the Heels have an 11% chance to wind up in the College Football Playoff with currently the 12th-best resume in the country.

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These numbers’ impact on your interpretation of the Tar Heels through four games is a personal decision. With that being said, the success on the field seems to be aligned with these metrics and statistics. The (4-0) start for Mack Brown is not a fluke. This team has the numbers through a third of the season to be a complete, talented unit come bowl season. The steps this program has taken to reach some of these statistics are impressive compared to years past, and although there is a lot to grow in, prolonged success is on the horizon in Chapel Hill.

To conclude, here are some current bowl projections and where the experts think the Heels are headed in the postseason.

CBS Sports: vs Ohio State (Orange Bowl)

USA Today: vs Penn State (Orange Bowl)

ESPN: vs Kentucky (Duke’s Mayo Bowl) / vs Kansas (Pop-Tarts Bowl)

The only thing that holds any true significance for Carolina Football is Saturday afternoon vs Syracuse. But as we approach the halfway point in the college football season, I could not help getting a closer look at who this Carolina team really is, and where they might be heading.