We assess the role of intrinsic histone-DNA interactions by mapping nucleosomes assembled in vitro on genomic DNA. Nucleosomes strongly prefer yeast DNA over Escherichia coli DNA, indicating that the yeast genome evolved to favor nucleosome formation. Many yeast promoter and terminator regions intrinsically disfavor nucleosome formation, and nucleosomes assembled in vitro show strong rotational positioning. Nucleosome arrays generated by the ACF assembly factor have fewer nucleosome-free regions, reduced rotational positioning and less translational positioning than obtained by intrinsic histone-DNA interactions. Notably, nucleosomes assembled in vitro have only a limited preference for specific translational positions and do not show the pattern observed in vivo. Our results argue against a genomic code for nucleosome positioning, and they suggest that the nucleosomal pattern in coding regions arises primarily from statistical positioning from a barrier near the promoter that involves some aspect of transcriptional initiation by RNA polymerase II.