Georgia Tech amassed 611 yards of total offense and 43 points and lost an ACC football game.
North Carolina gave up 120 points in a two-game span in September.
N.C. State yielded 1,024 yards in consecutive ACC losses.
Despite evidence to the contrary, especially in two-thirds of the Triangle this season, Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson believes it’s still possible for an ACC team to play good defense.
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“I think scores are higher because of the no-huddle stuff and some big plays, but there are still a lot of teams that play pretty good defense,” Johnson said.
Johnson is right, of course; there are some teams who can play defense – or at least enough of it to avoid the wrong side of history.
Duke ranks fifth in the country in scoring defense, giving up just 15.1 points per game, and is one of five ACC teams that ranks in the top 20 in the country in that category.
You have to scroll all the way down to No. 127 (out of 128 teams) to find the Tar Heels in the scoring defense rankings. At 43.28 points per game through seven games, UNC is on pace to break the school record for most points allowed (38.8 in 2003) per game.
Given what’s left on the Tar Heels’ schedule, UNC probably won’t get there, but right now they’re at least in the ballpark of Duke’s ignominious ACC record of 44.6 points allowed per game (from 2001).
(Aside: In this week’s chapter of “How bad was Duke before David Cutcliffe?” we go back to 2001. The Blue Devils gave up at least 50 points five times, including 166 in the final three games of the season, and somehow let a 4-7 Northwestern team put up 44 points.
And the 390 points in eight ACC games, 48.75 per game, just might be the Joe DiMaggio hitting streak of ACC football records.)
N.C. State has coughed up 39.25 points in four ACC games, which would surpass the school mark for average points allowed in an ACC game (35.6 in 1996).
The Tar Heels and Wolfpack share two of the same major problems: big plays and getting off the field on third down.
UNC has allowed a staggering 47 plays that have gone for 20 yards or more. That’s 124th in the country, according to cfbstats.com. Right in front of the Heels, at No. 110, is N.C. State with 40 such plays.
UNC and N.C. State both play a similar style of defense, with an extra defensive back, instead of a third linebacker. Neither school has chalked up the problems on defense to the scheme.
Before last week’s 30-18 loss at Louisville, which saw a major upgrade on defense, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said: “We’re not out of position; we’re just not making plays.”
That’s especially true on third down. N.C. State’s opponents have converted on 62 of 119 third-down opportunities (52.1 percent), which ranks 126th in the country (even Presbyterian went 8 of 17 on third down).
In the Wolfpack’s toughest loss of the season, 56-41 at home to Florida State on Sept. 27, the Seminoles converted on 8 of 11 third-down chances.
As Doeren pointed out after the Louisville game: “We really have to work hard on our third-down defense during the bye week.”
Yes, so do the Heels, who have allowed opponents to convert on 53 of 107 third-down opportunities (49.5 percent), which puts them at No. 121 in the NCAA.
N.C. State doesn’t play again until a trip to Syracuse Nov. 1, and its schedule slows up. Of the final four opponents, only UNC (37.5 points per game) ranks in the top 25 in scoring offense.
Syracuse (22.6 points per game) and Wake Forest (14.4 points per game) rank No. 106 and 126, respectively.
For all of UNC’s problems on defense, the Heels found a way to beat Georgia Tech last week (48-43) and keep Tar Heel bowl hopes on track and Coastal Division title chances alive.
UNC has been able to offset some of its problems on defense with its offense. Quarterback Marquise Williams has accounted for nine touchdowns in the past two games, and the Heels have let him run more (205 yards on 34 carries).
The Tar Heels have the most interesting matchup in the ACC this week. While UNC was bleeding yards and points last week, Virginia held Duke to 334 yards and 20 points. UNC won but Virginia lost.