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Stats Corner: Advanced Stats for Air Force over PAC 12

The Advanced Stats or Another Power 5 Victory for MWC

Air Force v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Another week, another victory for the Mountain West over a Power 5 conference opponent. This time Air Force took down another PAC 12 member in Colorado. At this rate, the PAC 12 is going to ban its members from playing MWC teams, or kick out Oregon State and Colorado and raid the Mountain West. This week we are going to look at the advanced stats from Air Force and Colorado since it’s probably going to be 45 years before they play each other again.

Backed Up

Not including overtime, Air Force started their drives on average 72.4 yards from the end zone. Colorado began 71.4 yards, giving the edge to Colorado. One yard may not seem like much but as is shown time and again one yard can make a difference. Air Force started zero drives backed up or inside their 20 yard line, while Colorado started two (20%). Each team only started one drive inside their opponent’s territory, Air Force from the 44 and Colorado from the 34, all other drives got underway at least 60 yards from pay dirt. Meaning that teams needed to put long drives together to score. Games like this are the reason that Bill Walsh created the advanced statistics, to monitor what it would take to great long drives and score more points.

NFP Colorado

OFP Colorado

OLF Air Force

DFP Colorado

DLF Air Force

Backed-up Advanced Stats Air Force 2-Colorado 3

Third Downs (

Air Force had 12 3rd downs and converted 7 of them for a 58.3% conversion rate, Colorado had 19 3rd downs and converted 11 for 57.8% conversion rate. Colorado had more conversions, but that was mainly due to much higher 3rd down opportunities, but fell short on 8 occasions. Air Force gets the slight edge on the rate, with Colorado winning the opportunities.

Offensive 3rd down converted Colorado

Offensive 3rd conversion rate Air Force

Defensive 3rd down converted Colorado

Defensive 3rd conversion rate Air Force

3rd Down Advanced Stats Air Force 2-Colorado 2

Down and Distance

A huge reason Air Force had less 3rd down opportunities was their down and distance stats. On first down Air Force averaged a massive 8.6 yards. Part of this was shewed by an 81 yard touchdown run which raised the average, but Air Force had first down plays of 11, 13, 15, 16, and 19. Only once did they run a play on first down (not counting penalties), that resulted in a loss of yards (the last drive of regulation), and only three times did their first downs result in zero yardage. Air Force was able to make positive production on first down which created manageable second downs, fewer third downs, and longer drives without running more plays. Colorado averaged 4.5 yards on first down, helped by 42 yard touchdown run, but their only other double digit first down plays were 13 and 19 yards. Four times the play resulted in negative yards and four more times zero yards were gained. This generated long second downs and a need to have more third downs to keep drives alive (see third down section). When a team can convert second and long or third and long things are fine, but offenses can’t be anticipated to dependably do so throughout the game. Air Force also had more yards on second down 3.9 to 3.8 and third downs 7.3 to 5.6. On third downs the Falcons had one play go for zero yards, all other 3rd downs went for positive yards, including four double digit plays. The Buffalo had five 3rd downs go for zero yards, meaning the Falcon defense may have given up a lot of third downs, but they were able to hold when needed.

Air Force may have been about to get positive yards on their first downs, but penalties hurt, think multiple fault starts in a row. Despite their massive first down yardage, they still have averaged second and 7.9 and third and 7.1. However, that was better than Colorado’s second and 8.7 and third and 7.8 statistics. Colorado consistently found themselves in second and long positions, nine second downs were of double digit yards out of 24 and three third downs were over 10 yards, with only four third downs being less than 5 yards. The Colorado offense was continuously asked to create longer drives and get more yards on 3rd downs than Air Force, and while it make work for a little while, eventually something had to give.

Yards on 1st down Air Force

Yards on 2nd down Air Force

Yards on 3rd down Air Force

2nd down and distance Air Force

3rd down and distance Air Force

Down and Distance Air Force 5-Colorado 0

Red Zone (

Once again not counting overtime since there are different rules, Air Force made it to the red zone twice and scored once for 50%. Scoring from 81 yards out is nice, but this method of scoring doesn’t work reliably, so it is a requisite that teams get into the red zone. Colorado made the trip four times and scored three times for 75%. If you are going to lose the red zone attempts you need to make it up in percentages, make the trips count. Air Force didn’t do this and it almost cost them the game.

Redzone attempts Colorado

Redzone Offense Percentage Scoring Colorado

Redzone Defense Percentage Scoring Colorado

Red Zone Advanced Stats Air Force 0-Colorado 3

Total Advance Stats Air Force 9- Colorado 8

By the slimmest of margins Air Force beat Colorado on the advanced stats score board, which probably explains why the game went to overtime. Statistics are not the answer, but help people understand what is going on. The biggest advantage for the Falcons was down and distance, they were able to put themselves in a more manageable position and make themselves less predictable on their play choices.