After neglecting the stats matchup for much of the day, here it is at long last.
But first, a note on what is arguably North Carolina’s greatest strength: Turnover margin.
The Tar Heels merit credit for their healthy amount of interceptions (18) on the season, which helps them rank fourth in the nation in turnover margin per game. But how sustainable is that, in reality?
I ask this in all seriousness. I’m more dubious of fumbles than picks, since a literal bounce of the ball can determine who snags possession on a fumble.
Nothing like a chart to clear things up. Here’s the top 10 teams in turnover margin last year, and their ranking in the category so far this season:
|2007 rank/team||‘07 margin |
|2. Louisiana State ||+1.43||97th||-0.67|
|3. Florida Atlantic||+1.38||115th||-1.22|
|4. Ball State||+1.31||13th||+1.00|
|4. East Carolina||+1.31||49th||+0.22|
|7. San Jose State||+1.08||24th||+0.70|
|9. West Virginia||+1.00||34th||+0.56|
That’s just about the epitome of random, and it indicates the Tar Heels’ tendency to force turnovers could come or go at any point. Only two of last year’s top 10 teams in this category even remain in the top quarter of the country this year, and while a change in personnel accounts for some of that, luck is probably an even larger component.
Anyway, as everyone waits for Carolina’s good fortune to expire, here’s the weekly stats rundown:
* Maryland run offense vs. North Carolina run defense: The Terps rank 62nd nationally with 146.9 yards a game; the Tar Heels rank 59th nationally by yielding 137.2 yards a game.
Two quintessential middle-of-the-road units meet. Expect a solid but not great day from Maryland, though certainly better than the negative-12 yards posted last week.
* Maryland pass offense vs. North Carolina pass defense: The Terps rank 69th nationally with 204.3 yards a game; the Tar Heels rank 71st nationally by yielding 212.0 yards a game.
Yet another strikingly similar matchup. Neither unit is particularly awe-inspiring, though neither struggles either. Here’s a spot where the 18 interceptions more than nullify some of the yardage ceded.
* North Carolina run offense vs. Maryland pass defense: The Tar Heels rank 77th nationally with 132.3 yards a game; the Terps rank 74th nationally by yielding 154.3 yards a game.
Not quite as close, even if the rankings remain tight. Maryland won’t always be as lousy as it was at Virginia Tech, and a revamped line could make something of a difference against the Tar Heels.
* North Carolina pass offense vs. Maryland pass defense: The Tar Heels rank 76th nationally with 195.6 yards a game; the Terps rank 75th nationally by yielding 217.1 yards a game.
Carolina’s passing numbers seem slightly low; perhaps that’s the Cam Sexton effect. But he seems like a good bet for a passing day in the low 200s against the Terps.
Here’s some outlier statistics (beyond the middle 50 percentile) for both teams.
North Carolina: Pass efficiency defense (24th), scoring defense (21st), turnover margin (fourth), pass efficiency (29th)
Maryland: Net punting (ninth)
North Carolina: Total offense (92nd)
Maryland: Punt return average (91st)
In short: It’s a meeting between two teams that do just about everything well enough to not be bad but not nearly well enough to be elite. And oddly enough, it should make for a rather decent game.