clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Stats Corner: Four Years of UNM and SJS Football Advanced Stats.

Looking at the Advanced Stats for MWC football teams the last four years.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Colorado State Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Football spring camps have started, along with spring games and scrimmages. Recruits have been signed, early admittance athletes are practicing with teams, and everyone is convinced that this season their team is going to win the conference and make the playoffs, or at least a New Year’s Day Bowl. For the next few weeks, Stats Corner is going to break down the last four years of Advanced Stats for the Mountain West and identify where teams are consistently good, consistently bad, and consistently inconsistent.

Hall of Fame Coach Bill Walsh created the advanced statistics as a way to measure his team’s strengths and weaknesses. Walsh felt the most important statistics were down and distance, backed-up, third downs, red-zone, and blitzing. Click for a refresher course on an overview, offenses stats, or defense stats. This week we are looking at New Mexico, and San Jose state.

New Mexico

UNM

Year NFP OFP Rank OLF Rank DFP Rank DLF Rank
Year NFP OFP Rank OLF Rank DFP Rank DLF Rank
2018 -0.7 70.4 62 0.183 76 69.9 89 0.208 50
2017 1.1 71.1 76 0.209 69 72.2 26 0.254 24
2016 -2.7 72.9 116 0.218 68 70.2 81 0.128 126
2015 -4.7 72.4 104 0.25 26 67.7 115 0.174 103
3rd Downs 3rd Downs 3rd Down 3rd Downs 3rd Downs
Offense Per Game Rank Converted Conversions % Rank Defense Per Game Rank Converted
2018 13.6 91 5.0 36.67% 85 15 89 6.6
2017 14.0 80 4.2 29.87% 121 13.1 19 5
2016 13.2 112 5.9 44.94% 23 12 3 4.7
2015 14.5 74 5.4 37.36% 80 15 75 6.5
Red-zone Red-zone Red-zone Red-zone
Offense scoring % rank attempts Rank Defense scoring % rank attempts Rank
2018 82.35% 77 3.1 92 94.00% 128 4.5 112
2017 68.00% 126 2.3 118 96.97% 129 3.0 43
2016 90.48% 16 3.5 77 88.89% 97 3.8 65
2015 73.53% 112 3.1 91 70.73% 7 3.4 62

One important battle that is repeatedly mentioned from the booth during a football game is field position. While New Mexico consistently fall behind their opponent, the gap is closing from 4.7 yards behind in 2015 to just .7 yards in 2018. That equates to 4 less yards per drive that New Mexico need to make up, it may not seem like much, but if each team has 10 drives, that’s 40 yards a game they are no longer giving up. Another improvement related to field position for the Lobos is the percentage of drives starting inside the 20 yard line. In 2015 25% of their drives and only 17.4% of opponent’s drives starting more than 80 yards from pay dirt. By 2018, their drives had dropped to 18.3% and opponents’ were up to 20.8%, after peaking to 25.4% in 2017.

Not starting backed-up is a good start, but the Lobos need to finish. The offense is stalling on drives and evidenced by the low number of 3rd downs which have been dropping over the last few years. Coupled with the low percentage of 3rd down conversions, this means really short drives. The defense isn’t helping, allowing 15 3rd downs twice and over 40% conversion rate. Leading to long drives, clock control, a tired New Mexico defense, and an offense trying to play catch-up.

If the offensive drives are short, then reason states that there will not be a lot of red-zone opportunities, only 2-3 per game. Add to that a well below average red-zone scoring rate, 68% and 126th ranked in 2017 to marginally improved 82.35% ranked 77th in 2018, and not a lot of points are being scored. And those long drives the opponents were putting together? 4.5 in 2018 found the red-zone and way too many are resulting in points, 94% in 2018 ranked 128th and 96.97% in 2017 raked 129th.

While New Mexico has done better in the field position game, that has been completely nullified by the offense stalling, not getting into the red-zone, and not scoring any points much less enough points. The defense needs to make 3rd down stops and prevent teams from entering and scoring in the red-zone. When the only teams worse at defense are Georgia Teach and East Carolina something has to change.

San Jose State

San Jose

Year NFP OFP Rank OLF Rank DFP Rank DLF Rank
Year NFP OFP Rank OLF Rank DFP Rank DLF Rank
2018 2.0 67.3 9 0.152 118 69.3 99 0.257 12
2017 -3.9 71.8 93 0.194 95 68 118 0.204 74
2016 1.3 70.5 61 0.198 89 71.8 35 0.175 106
2015 -2.9 71.1 82 0.192 95 68.3 106 0.244 39
3rd Downs 3rd Downs 3rd Down 3rd Downs 3rd Downs
Offense Per Game Rank Converted Conversions % Rank Defense Per Game Rank Converted
2018 15.0 40 4.8 32.12% 121 15.6 110 6.5
2017 14.4 58 4.2 28.90% 123 15.8 113 7.3
2016 14.5 68 5.8 40.00% 67 12.4 5 4.6
2015 14.1 91 6.5 46.15% 18 13.0 12 4.8
Red-zone Red-zone Red-zone Red-zone
Offense scoring % rank attempts Rank Defense scoring % rank attempts Rank
2018 78.12% 103 2.9 105 84.31% 78 4.6 114
2017 64.00% 129 2.1 123 85.94% 89 5.3 129
2016 76.47% 108 3.1 99 93.18% 122 4.0 79
2015 91.89% 7 3.1 89 85.37% 79 3.2 40

The Spartans may have problems, but field position isn’t one of them. A plus 2 advantage over their opponents, only 15.2% of the time starting pinned back, while pinning their opponent’s back 25.7% of the time. All of those numbers have improved over the last 4 years. The number of 3rd downs have also improved, implying that the Spartans are starting to put together longer drives.

But getting more 3rd downs only really helps when you convert them into first downs. And while San Jose State used to boast a 46.15% conversion rate, good for 18th in the country, that was 2015. They regressed to 28.9% in 2017, ranked 123rd, and 32.12% in 2018, ranked 121st. Similar in 2015 the defense only allowed 13 3rd down a game 12th best, improving to 12.4 and 5th best in 2016, while keeping a respectable 37% conversion rate both years. But that skyrockets to 15+ the last couple years and peaked to 46.56% allowance in 2017, all triple digit rankings.

A 6-7 record plus a bowl win in 2015 seems so long ago for the Spartans, which was when they could also claim a top 10 ranking in red-zone offense at 91.89% scoring, which was slightly offset by only 3.1 red-zone trips a game. Then came those triple digit rankings during 2016, 2017, and 2018 with only Kent State being worse in 2017. With the number of trips to the red-zone decrease to 2.1, another 120+ ranking, not a lot of points were being scored. The defense has been fairly steady in their red-zone percentages at mid-80’s level, but 3.2 allowed trips has ballooned to 5.3 trip in 2017, only behind UCLA, and 4.6 in 2018.

If San Jose State was to be successful, 3rd down conversion and red-zone offense and defense must be improved. Field position is important, but if you cannot go anywhere, it does not matter where you start. The objective in football is not to start in a better location than your opponent but to score more points than the other team. When both your red-zone offense and red-zone defense can count the number of teams with worse statistics than them on two hands and have fingers left over, you aren’t going to win many games.