The Best UNC Football Preview On The Web Just Came Out


There are a lot of things written about Carolina football throughout the summer. Football preview magazines come out this time of year, and fan websites like ours flood the interwebs with previews (Go read our first two previews on the QBs and RBs by Wes Patterson), and as the season draws closer and closer, there will just be more noise surrounding the team in the form of all these previews.

I like reading the previews, but a lot of them read very much the same. Here are the basics — Marquise Williams is returning and good. The offense is returning a lot of starters. The defense stinks, but Gene Chizik is here. Nobody knows how good UNC will be.

Very few previews are able to cut through all the noise and chatter and actually provide real insight and clarity into how the season is going to go.

Why I love Bill Connelly’s Football Preview series, among many reasons, is because he is able to cut through the noise so well by looking at the stats and the depth charts to draw real conclusions about how the team will do in the upcoming season.

Today, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly released his UNC Football Preview.  The title is “Talking yourself into UNC football is an annual tradition. Is 2015 the year?” which I absolutely love. I want you first to all read that piece, and then follow along as I add some commentary to some of the point that Connelly makes.

First, he starts with a review of last season. Talking about the end of the Tar Heels’ season last year…

"However, it looked like the same late-year surge was building. UNC knocked off a strong Georgia Tech in a shootout, then looked decent in beating a better-than-you-thought Virginia on the road. Things were looking up … until the Heels got smoked by Miami.UNC looked good against Pitt and spectacular against Duke. Things were looking up … until the Heels got outscored by NC State and Rutgers by a combined 75-28.Two attempted surges failed to get off the ground. The Heels’ three worst performances came in the final five games. So much for either carry-over or a new surge. And yet, here I am, telling you to buy in regardless."

As an outsider, Connelly is confused by the fact that two late season surges failed to get off the ground. Fans of the team weren’t confused but maddened, haunted by those two failed surges. In his piece, Connelly includes a chart of the per game percentage performance of the Tar Heels. The surges are illustrated in that chart. The second surge that failed to get off the ground is the most maddening. After playing horribly against Miami, UNC played better against both Pitt and Duke, reaching the 97th percentile of per game performance against Duke.

Fans remember that win; it was awesome. With two games left against a huge rival and in a bowl game, after playing in the 97th percentile of performance against Duke, clearly it would seem that UNC would surge to the finish, go 2-0 and dominate the competition. Instead, 0-2 and two very, very horrible losses.

For Connelly, those failed surges were confusing and inexplicable. For fans, haunting and maddening. And disappointing

Connelly on Marquise Williams…

"Marquise Williams is maddening — the good version is so good that you never want it to go away. And it goes away for a couple of weeks at a time. (I guess you could say he is the quintessential UNC player.) If Williams puts the pieces together, remains healthy (he was battling a hip injury late in the year), and plays well for most of his senior season, he should crush the 3,000/1,000 mark."

Two points. First, I think Marquise is less maddening than an outside observer of the program like Connelly believes. I’m super biased because I love Marquise, but I never really placed the blame for bad performances on him. In some of his worst games, against State and ECU, I place the blame on the defense, which was horrible in both aforementioned games, and on the line, which couldn’t keep Marquise upright against Miami and State. Quise is less maddening and more a hero who, sometimes, isn’t getting enough help from his teammates and his defense.

Two, I tend to believe we will see good Marquise all season long. With the line healthy and returning all five starters, with the defense ready to improve, and with so many weapons returning, it seems like Marquise can’t fail! He is too talented and has too many weapons to regress if he stays healthy.

On the defensive breakdowns…

"Against UNC, offenses still had the advantage on passing downs. Of all of the Heels’ weaknesses, the biggest (124th in Passing Downs IsoPPP+) came in allowing opponents to not only catch back up to the chains on second- or third-and-long, but to blaze right past the chains altogether."

Again, Connelly is spot on. An example of one of the plays he was talking about…

That was clearly a miscommunication, not a poorly defended pass or a great play by Watson. The good news — that defense may have in part been caused by the complexity of the 4-2-5 defense, which is long gone now. Maybe Chizik and the simpler 4-3 will lead to less breakdowns and a natural decrease in those long passes.


Go read the best UNC Football preview on the web again.