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Advanced Metrics Not High on UNC Football in 2016

North Carolina's scoring defense success in 2015 was not enough to alleviate poor rankings in other areas.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Contrary to media and fan expectations, North Carolina is expected to take a step back in 2016 according to the computers.

Football Outsiders built its brand as one of the nation’s top advanced metrics football sites on the back of two statistical approaches: Bill Connelly’s S&P+ ratings and Brian Fremeau’s FEI ratings.

Connelly, who churns out steady content at Football Study Hall, developed his model on what he’s labeled the five factors of college football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives and turnovers. His metrics are derived from both play-by-play and drive data. Fremeau, who runs, built his model on the foundation of baseline possession efficiency expectations and rewards or punishes teams based upon the quality of their opponents.

The models are quite different, yet when paired together, as Connelly and Fremeau first did in 2009 to formulate FO’s F/+ ratings, the metrics help pinpoint the legitimate contenders in college football. Alabama and Clemson, as expected, finished atop the ratings in 2015. UNC checked in at No. 24.

Both Connelly and Fremeau have released their win projections for 2016, and neither look promising for the Tar Heels. Both metrics indicate that UNC is most likely to post a 7-5 or 8-4 regular season record this fall.

   UNC Win Total S&P+ (Connelly) FEI (Fremeau)
            4              2%             1%
            5              7%             5%
            6            17%           14%
           7            25%           24%
           8            25%           27%
           9            16%           19%
         10              6%            8%
         11              1%            2%
         12           < 1%         < 1%

Fremeau’s projections begin with his five-year weighted program data as a baseline.

“I do think last year's team was not quite as good as their gaudy record, so a slide backward wouldn't be at all surprising for me,” Fremeau wrote in an email last week.

A primary factor in the metrics is likely UNC's porous defense in 2015. Despite the nation's 42nd-best scoring defense (24.5 ppg), the Tar Heels ranked 67th in the defensive S&P+ ratings and 66th in the defensive FEI ratings. 

Connelly takes an extra step in his projections to forecast conference-play wins. His data indicates UNC has a 28.1 percent likelihood of a 5-3 ACC record and a 26.9 percent likelihood of a 4-4 ACC record.

As he wrote earlier this week, his data suggests the Coastal Division will be wide open yet again.

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