1. To paraphrase Silky Johnson from the "Player Hater's Ball," what can be said about North Carolina's defense that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan: It looks bombed out and depleted.
It's not just missed tackles or a tendency to give up big plays. The Tar Heels have a big problem stopping the run.
- South Carolina: 228 yards on 38 carries.
- MTSU: 159 yards on 41 carries.
- Georgia Tech: 324 yards on 71 carries.
Against East Carolina, a traditionally pass-heavy squad, it was more of the same. The Pirates rushed for 194 yards on 54 attempts. Vintavious Cooper did the bulk of the work, running 35 times for 183 yards.
In ECU's loss to Virginia Tech, Cooper ran for only 28 yards on eight carries. While it's easy to chalk up his limited production to a rejuvenated defense out of Blacksburg, consider Cooper had just 133 yards on 32 carries in wins over Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic.
East Carolina ran 101 plays, the most ever by an opponent against the Tar Heels, and only punted twice. The Pirates dictated the pace and North Carolina didn't have any answers during the game. Head coach Larry Fedora didn't seem to have any after the game, either.
"You’ve got to play with energy, no matter what happens," Fedora said. "It doesn’t matter. You can’t let one play affect the next play. We obviously don’t have that right now.”
2. High scores are nothing new for North Carolina under Fedora. Virginia Tech put up 34 points, NC State scored 35 points, Georgia Tech dropped 68 points and Maryland kept it close with 38 points. The Tar Heels won three out of those four in Chapel Hill because the offense stayed one step ahead.
The Tar Heels are not afforded the same luxury this season.
Bryn Renner finished with a good looking box score. 28-of-46 for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns. He threw one interception. That masks a shaky first half where the ball just wasn't leaving his hand right. Fedora used a little trickeration with Quinshad Davis passing to T.J. Thorpe for a 32-yard score to finally get on the board.
3. North Carolina doesn't appear to be a focused team at the moment. For starters, look at the penalties.
The Heels continued a nasty trend from their loss to Georgia Tech and were penalized nine times for 99 yards against the Pirates. North Carolina is doing a good enough job beating themselves by destroying offensive rhythm and taking touchdowns off the board (once against the Yellow Jackets and another one against the Pirates).
The flat effort isn't lost on Fedora, who told Lee Pace of the Tar Heels Sports Network at halftime that he'd just like his team to "play football" at some point. It's up to the coaching staff to snap them out of this funk.
4. NC State bounced back from a tough loss to Clemson with a drama free win over Central Michigan.
The Wolfpack defense jumped on the Chippewas early, erasing any thoughts of a Richmond repeat from a couple weeks back. NC State intercepted quarterback Cooper Rush three times, including D.J. Green's pick-six on the second play of the game, and limited Central Michigan to just 259 yards of total offense.
NC State's primary attack was on the ground. Fifty-two carries divided between 10 different Wolfpack players for 259 total rushing yards. Shadrach Thorton got the start and lead all rushers with 71 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he saved the media from a scary spider.
5. Duke was on the right end of another high scoring affair, beating Troy thanks to the work of Brandon Connette. The quarterback threw three touchdowns and punched a couple in on the ground. Connette's development from change-of-pace quarterback to starter due to injury is the biggest story of Duke's young season and important to making another bowl.
Say this about the Blue Devils' defense, they keep things interesting. David Cutcliffe might lose the rest of his hair in the process, but he'll take it. The unit got stronger after initially getting knocked back on it's heels by the pace of Troy's offense.
Duke's schedule following the bye-week isn't especially daunting, but the defensive issues make even the winnable games toss-ups.