Music City Bowl Preview: Tennessee Volunteers Vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts, links to SB Nation game pages, and statistical comparisons.

CAVEATS: You know the drill. Also, this: all of the following information is gleaned exclusively fromand does not account for things like injuries, shared playing time, and other stuff difficult to see in the stats from a bird's eye view. As always, this is a long post, so I've put the conclusions and predictions before and after the meat. You're not seeing double.

ALSO THIS: The NCAA, known for simplicity and consistently wise decisions, decided to do extreme maintenance on the stats portion of its website during the post-season, so the normal stats were unavailable for this post. I used CFBStats.com instead, and while I don't distrust the data, I did have to enter most of it by hand to fit it into my regular format, and I do distrust my ability to actually do that without error. Just so you know.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • The only opponent common to both the Vols and the Tar Heels is LSU, who beat both teams with a variety of self-induced turnover whammys, voodoo, and demon-possessed chicken bones.
  • North Carolina's T.J. Yates leads a very solid passing attack, but they're nothing special on offense anywhere else, statistically speaking.
  • Although they're not really an elite defense, they are solid EVERYWHERE. Except for tackles for loss and maybe sacks, so Tyler Bray should have some time to do some loco if he gets on a roll. Watch out for Quinton Coples, though, because he's the one guy who can actually screw things up in the backfield for the Vols.

Prediction

  • Tennessee 27, North Carolina 24 in a close one.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

North Carolina Logo
LSU Tigers 9/4/10 loss 24 - 30 coverage
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 9/18/10 loss 24 - 30 coverage
@ Rutgers Scarlet Knights 9/25/10 win 17 - 13 coverage
East Carolina Pirates 10/2/10 win 42 - 17 coverage
Clemson Tigers 10/9/10 win 21 - 16 coverage
@ Virginia Cavaliers 10/16/10 win 44 - 10 coverage
@ Miami Hurricanes 10/23/10 loss 10 - 33 coverage
William & Mary Tribe 10/30/10 win 21 - 17 coverage
@ Florida St. Seminoles 11/6/10 win 37 - 35 coverage
Virginia Tech Hokies 11/13/10 loss 10 - 26 coverage
N.C. State Wolfpack 11/20/10 loss 25 - 29 coverage
@ Duke Blue Devils 11/27/10 win 24 - 19 coverage

The only common opponent for the Tar Heels and the Vols is LSU, who beat North Carolina and first lost to then beat Tennessee in the span of zero seconds. Yes, still bitter. Other than that, there's not a whole lot to compare. The loss to Georgia Tech could be characterized as a "bad" loss, but the losses to LSU, Miami, Virginia Tech, and N.C. State really can't. Of course, you can't really point to any "good" wins, either, with the possible exception of Florida State, who they beat by two points when FSU missed a 40-yard field goal attempt with seven seconds remaining.

The UNC-LSU game was so long ago it probably can't tell us anything worthwhile, but because the Tigers are the only common opponent, here are the drive charts for the two games:

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Charts brought to you by Gameday Depot.

Heh. That is how the Hat rolls.

 

 

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Oh, that is painful to relive, isn't it? Even without all of the drama after the first finish. Ugh. Anyway, both UNC and UT got the benefit of four turnovers from the Tigers and had the game within reach at the end but were denied by whatever demon holds Les Miles's soul in his cold, bony fingers. The Tar Heels appear to have moved the ball better, so there's that for them.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual
Rushing Offense 95 123.58
Passing Offense 25 266.5
Total Offense 50 390.1
Scoring Offense 79 24.9
Sacks Allowed 101 2.83

Offensive observations. Nothing special here, really, although the Tar Heels do appear to have a much better than average passing attack. They don't score a lot of points, though, and they appear vulnerable to sacks.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual
Rushing Defense 36 133.83
Total Defense 32 338.5
Scoring Defense 43 22.9
Pass Defense 39 204.7
Sacks 54 2.08
Tackles For Loss 103 4.75

Defensive observations. There's nothing elite about North Carolina's defense, but they do almost everything (with the exception of tackles for loss and perhaps sacks) well. And look at the balance -- there doesn't appear to be any soft spot to exploit.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual
Net Punting 102 38.04
Punt Returns 46 9.23
Kickoff Returns 92 20.27
Turnover Margin 54 0

Special teams and turnovers observations. Nothing to see here, just merely average at punt returns and turnover margin, and not good at punting, covering punts, or both or returning kickoffs.

Stastical Comparison

The RTT BlogPoll Computery Thing is wandering around lost and lonely, wondering where the NCAA stats went, who they went with, and who they are loving, touching, and squeezing tonight. If you've never seen a spreadsheet cry, you've never seen it listen to Steve Perry alone in the corner.

Players to watch for

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Johnny White 52 80
Passing T.J. Yates 19 265.3
Receiving Dwight Jones 39 74.6
Total Offense T.J. Yates 29 261.3
DEFENSE
Sacks Quinton Coples 25 8.5 (total)
Tackles For Loss Quinton Coples 44 14 (total)
Interceptions Da'Norris Searcy 30 4 (total)
Fumbles Forced Tre Boston 88 2 (total)
SPECIAL TEAMS
Field Goals Casey Barth 21 16/19
All Purpose Yards Johnny White 61 112

Observations

Offense. QB T.J. Yates is what we call the Real Deal, 19th in the nation in passing and 29th in total offense. His favorite target appears to be Dwight Jones, who averages nearly 75 yards per game and ranks 39th in the nation. RB Johnny White is fine, adding 80 rushing yards to the mix and ranking in the top half of the country, but it's Yates who makes this thing go.

Defense. Quinton Coples is the havoc-wreaker up front, and Da'Norris Searcy is the ball hawk out back. Tre Boston, whose name sounds like a Groupon campaign, likes to separate you from the ball.

Special teams. Casey Barth is a pretty good field goal kicker. That is all.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo North Carolina Logo
Best Comparable(s)
Result Against Best Comp
Prediction
UT rush v. UNC rush defense 116.08
(#100)
133.83
(#36)
LSU
(135.83)
(#38)
96 100
UT pass v. UNC pass defense 249.8
(#35)
204.7
(#39)
Oregon
(214)
(#55)
151 220
UNC rush v. UT rush defense 152.67
(#63)
123.58
(#95)
Vanderbilt
(138.83)
(#80)
111 100
UNC pass v. UT pass defense 229.3
(#81)
266.5
(#25)
UAB
(266.8)
(#24)
429 260
UT scoring offense v. UNC scoring defense 27
(#60)
22.9
(#43)
South Carolina
(22.9)
(#43)
24 27
UNC scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 24.7
(#54)
24.9
(#79)
UAB
(26.3)
(#68)
29 24

As always, these are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations. The general analytical framework is this: We are averaging X in a certain category. The opponent averages Y against that, which is most closely comparable to some identified previous opponent, against whom we did Z. All of that leads to an informed guess labeled as Prediction. The less data you have, the more sketchy the guess, and the guesses range from ALL CAPS SKETCHY WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS at the beginning of the season to merely lower case sketchy for the last game.

This week's example: We're scoring 27 points per game, and UNC is holding opponents to about 23. They're tied with South Carolina in scoring defense, and against the Gamecocks we got 24. Add three for playing in Nashville and a general sense of Tyler Bray and November Woo-sies, and I predict 27 points for the good guys in Ahrnge.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • The only opponent common to both the Vols and the Tar Heels is LSU, who beat both teams with a variety of self-induced turnover whammys, voodoo, and demon-possessed chicken bones.
  • North Carolina's T.J. Yates leads a very solid passing attack, but they're nothing special on offense anywhere else, statistically speaking.
  • Although they're not really an elite defense, they are solid EVERYWHERE. Except for tackles for loss and maybe sacks, so Tyler Bray should have some time to do some loco if he gets on a roll. Watch out for Quinton Coples, though, because he's the one guy who can actually screw things up in the backfield for the Vols.

Prediction

  • Tennessee 27, North Carolina 24 in a close one.
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