Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

Stats Detail UNC Football's 2015 Success

North Carolina finished the season ranked No. 15 in both the AP and Coaches Polls.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Now that the 2015 college football season has come to a close, it’s time to dive into the statistics and break down North Carolina’s breakthrough season.

Gene Chizik and his transformation of UNC’s defense provided the bulk of storylines last summer and fall, and deservedly so. However, it was Larry Fedora’s offense that was the driving force in UNC winning its first ACC Coastal Division title and catapulting the team to its first 11-win season in nearly two decades.

The Tar Heels set 62 team and individual records in 2015, according to UNC’s sports information office, and 44 of those records occurred on the offensive side of the ball. Fedora’s first offense in Chapel Hill accounted for a similar percentage of the 40 team and individual records set back in 2012.

Fedora has built offensive machines at every stop since taking his first offensive coordinator job at Middle Tennessee in 1999, although the statistical evidence indicates that UNC’s 2015 offense is his best to date.

The chart below details Fedora’s offenses during his eight years as head coach. The third and fourth columns (Total O/PPG) are raw statistics that are not adjusted for tempo, while the fifth and sixth columns (YPP/OE) provide per play and per drive measurements. The offensive efficiency statistics, courtesy of FootballOutsiders.com, represent data based on actual drive success against expected drive success based on field position.

Year Record Total Offense Points Per Game Yards Per Play Offensive Efficiency
2008 (USM ) 7-6 433.5 (20) 30.6 (31) 5.7 (39) .303 (22)
2009 (USM) 7-6 416.4 (31) 32.9 (18) 5.99 (29) .243 (26)
2010 (USM) 8-5 453.4 (18) 36.8 (15) 5.72 (49) .145 (34)
2011 (USM) 12-2 461.4 (17) 36.9 (14) 6.2 (25) 0.45 (50)
2012 (UNC) 8-4 485.6 (14) 40.6 (8) 6.49 (14) .378 (18)
2013 (UNC) 7-6 425.7 (49) 32.7 (43) 5.87 (48) .094 (57)
2014 (UNC) 6-7 429.8 (48) 33.2 (38) 5.56 (66) .35 (51)
2015 (UNC) 11-3 486.9 (18) 40.7 (9) 7.28 (1) 1.03 (12)

* National rankings is in parentheses

Chizik's bend-but-don't-break defensive philosophy limited defensive breakdowns and thereby prevented the large quantities of explosive plays that plagued the Tar Heels' defense in 2014. Despite allowing 247.4 rushing yards per game, the most by a UNC defense in 40 years, the Tar Heels were largely effective in keeping their opponents out of the end zone.

Year Record Total Defense PPG Allowed YPP Allowed Defensive Efficiency
2008 (USM ) 7-6 365.0 (64) 24.1 (54) 5.42 (68) -.001 (63)
2009 (USM) 7-6 392.5 (81) 25.8 (61) 5.38 (56) .185 (88)
2010 (USM) 8-5 356.4 (47) 29.5 (81) 5.55 (63) .062 (70)
2011 (USM) 12-2 343.0 (29) 20.8 (25) 4.61 (10) -.396 (8)
2012 (UNC) 8-4 389.6 (57) 25.7 (53) 5.21 (36) .033 (64)
2013 (UNC) 7-6 403.1 (64) 24.5 (43) 5.28 (39) -.142 (43)
2014 (UNC) 6-7 497.8 (120) 39.0 (119) 6.53 (117) -1.11 (120)
2015 (UNC) 11-3 435.9 (95) 24.5 (42) 5.50 (56) .12 (40)

There was plenty of offseason discussion concerning just how much improvement UNC’s defense could make in Chizik’s first season as coordinator. One popular line of thinking was that a return to the level of defense played in 2012-13 would put the Tar Heels in position to contend for the Coastal Division title.

The similarities between the 2013 and 2015 statistics are telling. While the ’13 defense allowed fewer yards per game and yards per play, Chizik’s first defensive unit matched the ‘13 defense in points per game and was slightly better in defensive efficiency against the same quality of competition. UNC ranked 61st in strength of schedule in 2015 and 59th in 2013, according to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin.

When factoring in the 2012 defensive statistics, which fall in line with ’13 and ’15, a strong case can be made that the 2014 implosion was more a product of off-the-field issues as opposed to the quality of talent on hand.


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