clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Stats Corner: Looking at the Stats in the Bridger Rifle Teams

Part 5: the Advanced Statistics of Utah State and Wyoming

NCAA Football: Utah State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Utah State and Wyoming has a long history together, they have played each other 69 times which is the fourth longest rivalry for Utah State and the fifth longest rivalry for Wyoming. They now compete for the Bridger Rifle. So why not look at their advanced stats during the same week?

To get caught up on the series

Part 1: New Mexico and San Jose State

Part 2: Air Force Academy and Colorado State

Part 3: San Diego State and Hawaii

Part 4: Nevada and UNLV

Utah State

Utah State

Year NFP OFP Rank OLF Rank DFP Rank DLF Rank
Year NFP OFP Rank OLF Rank DFP Rank DLF Rank
2018 2.1 68.4 19 0.146 120 70.5 69 0.107 127
2017 3.4 68 14 0.207 74 71.4 44 0.211 65
2016 -0.6 71.1 72 0.206 78 70.5 70 0.228 55
2015 3.6 66.8 9 0.168 115 70.5 61 0.236 46
3rd Downs 3rd Downs 3rd Downs 3rd Downs 3rd Downs
Offense Per Game Rank Converted Conversions % Rank Defense Per Game Rank Converted
2018 14.2 65 6.6 46.20% 16 16.7 125 5.8
2017 15.7 23 5.2 33.51% 109 16.4 126 6
2016 14.9 51 5.5 36.59% 96 15 83 6.2
2015 14.1 92 5.4 38.46% 72 14.8 59 5.4
Red-zone Red-zone Red-zone Red-zone
Offense scoring % Rank attempts Rank Defense scoring % Rank attempts Rank
2018 86.79% 41 4.4 19 84.62% 82 3.2 47
2017 84.85% 50 2.8 108 80.49% 43 3.4 74
2016 81.82% 84 3 107 91.30% 115 4.2 94
2015 70.27% 117 3.1 90 86.84% 93 3.2 41

Utah State has had its highs and lows over the last four seasons. 2018 was the high mark at 11-2, 2017 was an OK 6-7, 2016 was the low point at 3-9, 2015 another OK 6-7. It should come as no surprise that the Aggies worse year was also the only year where they had a negative NFP value, meaning they started further from the end-zone than their opponents. This is not causation, or the sole cause of losing nine games was their offense started .6 yards behind opposing offenses, but rather a correlation when teams consistently put themselves in poor situations, they typically lose games. Another correlation is red-zone defense, in 2016 over 91% of the time the defense gave up a score, when combined with a 94th ranked 4.2 trips to the red-zone that made for a long season. As the defense improved, 91% dropped to the low 80s and the number of opposing trips dropped from 4.2, to 3.4, down to 3.2, the wins increased. Also the offense improved in the red-zone, 81% in 2016 up to 84% in 2017, and finally at 86% in 2018 going along with 4.4 trips per game, the stats will radically improve your chances of winning. Those 4.4 trips could have been higher if the Aggies didn’t score so many times from further out, and so many defensive and special team scores prevent that number from being higher. The purpose of football is to score more points than the other team, red-zone is important, but scoring points is scoring points.

Another area the Aggies have improved on is 3rd downs. While the number of defensive 3rd downs allowed has increased over the years, the number of 3rd downs converted has decreased along with the percentages. If you are going to allow teams more third downs, the best way to counter it is to prevent them from getting first downs and the Aggies have gotten better at that. The number of offensive 3rd downs did decrease last year, after increasing for 3 years, but the number and percentage increased dramatically, from 33% and 109th ranked in 2017 to 46% and 16th in 2018. The Aggies may have had fewer opportunities, but they made the most of them.

The Aggies are the classic example of what Bill Walsh was identifying when he created the advanced statistics, when the Aggies consistently poor in the areas Walsh identified, and not the other statistics which are available, they had losing seasons, when they were able to turn around most of the statistics into some of the best in the nation, they had one of the best seasons in school history. Some people would argue that the wins created the statistics, but Walsh argued that the statistics created the wins, not the other way around.

Wyoming

Wyoming

Year NFP OFP Rank OLF Rank DFP Rank DLF Rank
Year NFP OFP Rank OLF Rank DFP Rank DLF Rank
2018 1 70.6 69 0.194 64 71.7 40 0.24 23
2017 4.6 66.1 3 0.133 129 70.7 61 0.277 11
2016 0.8 70.1 50 0.217 69 71 60 0.222 58
2015 -5.8 74.1 124 0.252 23 68.2 107 0.149 121
3rd Downs 3rd Downs 3rd Downs 3rd Downs 3rd Downs
Offense Per Game Rank Converted Conversions % Rank Defense Per Game Rank Converted
2018 14.5 58 5.2 35.85% 94 14.7 78 5.8
2017 14 79 4.5 32.14% 117 15.7 110 5.5
2016 14.7 64 6.3 42.93% 37 14.2 47 6.1
2015 13 117 4.5 34.27% 111 12 1 5.4
Red-zone Red-zone Red-zone Red-zone
Offense scoring % rank attempts Rank Defense scoring % rank attempts Rank
2018 82.61% 74 2.1 129 87.88% 101 3 36
2017 96.77% 4 2.6 115 76.47% 19 2.8 30
2016 89.58% 19 3.7 66 86.54% 84 4 76
2015 61.76% 125 3.1 87 89.74% 110 3.5 71

Wyoming hit rock bottom in 2015 with a 2-10 record. Since then, they have had 2 eight win seasons, 2016 8-6 and 2017 8-5, before ending 2018 with the unusual record of 6-6 by getting left out of a bowl game.

Like Utah State, their worst season was the only time they had a negative NFP at -5.8. That was the year they started 74.1 yards from pay dirt which was 124th in the NCAA and their opponents started by 68.2 yards which was 121st in the NCAA. It is difficult to win games when you consistently give your opponent a head start. Their best year 2017 saw the offense only 66 yards from scoring which was 3rd best while their defense was given 70.7 yards or 11th best to stop opponents.

Red-zone is another case where the stats match the record, see above for first case. During the two win season the Cowboys only scored 61% of times they entered the red-zone which was 125th in NCAA, while allowing their opponents to score almost 90% of the time, another triple digit rankings. As the percentage for offense increased to almost 90% in 2016 to near 97% in 2017 so did the wins. The percentage dropped in 2018 to 82%, and the wins dropped as well. The defense was able to get their percentage below 77% during the eight win years, and limit the number of trips into the red-zone by opposing teams to below 3 per game to help the team win.

If there is an area the Cowboys need to improve to increase their win totals, it is 3rd downs. Consistently the offense converts 3rd downs in the low 30%, while the defense gives up 3rd downs at a rate higher than 40%. To win more games, keep your offense on the field and get their offense off the field.