As we reach the halfway point in the season, all MWC teams have played either 5 or games. While there have been some surprises based on preseason expectations, the possibility of teams really changing who they are, excluding a major injury, are slim. Therefore, this week on Stats Corner we are going to look at what advanced stats each school is doing well and where they are struggling. Quick refresh, Bill Walsh came up with a list of statistics he felt were important in gauging how a team was doing. The purpose of the statistics was to get the coaches and players to ask why something was occurring, the stats are not the answer but getting people to ask the correct questions. A full list and explanation of Advanced Stats can be found here.
One of the reasons the Falcons are so hard to beat is they lead the league in Red Zone attempts at 4.3 per game, which is good for 25th in the country. Even better is their 4.0 Red Zones scores a game, which is 11th in the country. The Falcons were on the low end of 3rd downs per game at 12.3, 113th in the country, but 11th in the nation at 7.0 converted per game and are number one with a conversion rate of 57.1%.
The Falcon defense only allows 1.5 Red Zone trips per game, second behind Michigan, allowing at total for 1.3 Red Zone scores a game, only behind Michigan and Oklahoma. The defense is the 5th best in the nation at 11.3 3rd downs a game and a fifth best 3.4 3rd down conversions, which combines to 11th best 28.9% conversion rate.
The reason the Falcons are one of the best teams in conference is how effective they are. They are able to convert 3rd downs when needed to keep drives alive, and score when they reach the Red Zone. The defense keeps teams out of the Red Zone, limits the number of 3rd downs other teams have and prevents opponents from creating long drives. Simply put, that is the recipe to winning a lot of games.
The biggest problem for Boise is the Red Zone. The offense only makes 2.0 attempts a game, good for 121st in the country and only scores points 62.5% of the time which is 123rd. The defense is allowing opponents to reach the Red Zone 4.6 times a game a conference worst and 119th in the country and allows them to score 3.8 times. The defense only allows 11.6 3rd downs a game, which is 4th best in the conference and 7th best in the nation.
The problem with the Broncos is they cannot sustain long drives into the Red Zone, while opponents consistently reach it. It seems so easy when you say it, fixing the problem is another issue. Remember stats do not tell you what to do, they get you to ask the right question about the problem.
The Rams are average in getting into the Red Zone, but they are 118th in the country at scoring at 69.2%. The Rams average 17.0 3rd downs per game, good enough for 2nd in the country and convert a 9th best 7.3 3rd downs per game. The defense goes allow 3.8 Red Zone scores a game and 122nd in the national allowing 16.0 third downs a game with teams converting 7.5 3rd downs a game which is 130th.
The Rams are putting together nice long drives, but turnovers and mistake are preventing them from finishing. The defense is not helping either allowing opponents to create long drives by converting 3rd downs to keep the drives going and then scoring when they reach the Red Zone.
After the Falcons, the Bulldogs are best at getting to the Red Zone with 3.8 attempts per game, that does not seem like a coincidence. The Bulldogs are also 2nd, behind the Falcons again, in Red Zone scores at 3.4 per game, good for 31st in the country. The Bulldogs also convert 7.8 3rd downs a game, good for 5th in the country and convert at a rate of 53.4% also good enough for 5th. The defense only allows 2.4 Red Zone trips a game, which is 14th in the country, 2.0 Red Zone scores which is 19th, and an 18th best 4.2 3rd down conversions, which leads to 21st best 32.8% conversion rate.
Another top team in the conference with a lot of defenses statistics. The offense makes it to the Red Zone and scores but converting 3rd downs to keep the drives alive, one again it seems so simple when you put it that way but there is a lot more to it. The defense prevents teams from making and converting 3rd down, keep them out of the Red Zone and off the field.
Hawaii might struggle with some things, but making into the RedZone is not one of them. They are 3rd in the conference at 3.8 attempts with is 47th in the country. Unfortunately, they are 122nd in the country at only scoring in 68.4% of trips. At 112th with only 4.0 third downs converted a game, a rate of 29.9% 118th. Hawaii’s defense is in the top 20 in the country at 12.4 3rd downs a game, which is seventh in the conference (how did MWC defense get so good at preventing 3rd downs?)
Hawaii is similar to Colorado State, they can get into the Red Zone, but they cannot keep drives going or score when they get there. The defense is able to help by not allowing teams to put drive together and run out the clock, but the offense needs to do their part.
The Wolfpack have lots of issues, one of which is being last in the conference in Red Zone attempts at 2.3, which is 122nd in the country and second to last in Red Zone scores at 2.3 per game, at least they score 100% of the time in the Red Zone. At 16.0 3rd downs per game, they are 13th in the country. The defense only allows 10.0 3rd downs a game, 2nd in the conference and nation to the Lobos, but allows teams to convert 52.5% of the time 128th in the country.
The Wolfpack’s problems come down to being inconsistent. They can put drives together, as shown by 16 3rd downs, but fail short of the Red Zone. The defense can stop teams on 1st and 2nd down, but gives up way too many 3rd down conversions to be effective.
One surprising Stats is that New Mexico and Hawaii are in the top quarter of the conference in getting into the Red Zone with the Lobos getting in 3.8 times a game, combined with at 38th best 3.3 Red Zone scores a game. At 12.3 3rd downs per game though, they are at the bottom of the conference. The defense does allow 3.8 Red Zone scores a game which is 100% of the time. The defense does allow a nation best 9.5 3rd downs per game and a fourth best 3.3 3rd down conversions, behind Utah, Texas A&M, and Florida.
The Lobos are interesting, they can get into the Red Zone and score, but are scoring field goals, while the defense is good at holding teams until the Red Zone, then they allow touchdowns. The stats say the Lobos are close to turning the corner, but cannot help themselves.
San Diego State
A big problem for the Aztecs in moving the ball and getting into the Red Zone, at 2.4 attempts per game, about once a half, which is 119th in the country. Their Red Zone scores are 125th in the country at 1.6, the area of Kent State, Ball State, and Florida Atlantic. That’s a percentage of 66.7% only ahead of schools like UCLA, Temple and Old Dominion. The defense does only allow 12.0 3rd downs a game which is 12th in the nation.
The Aztec issue is simple, they cannot score and the defense allows too much scoring. Fixing it though, is not simple.
San Jose State
The Spartans are allowing teams to score 4.2 from the Red Zone per game, or once per quarter, that is only better than Arkansas State, Western Michigan, and UAB (that is not good) that’s a rate of 100%, (really not good). What is good is defense only allowing 12.2 3rd downs a game, 17th in the nation, what is bad is teams convert 7.0 a game which is 123rd and allows a 57.4% conversion rate only better than Kent State.
While the offense is not unblameable, the defense has too many problems. It is allowing teams into the Red Zone far too often, and when it does create a 3rd down, over half the time the opponent is able to keep the drive going. They need to be more consistent on stopping teams.
The Rebels can put some drives together with an average of 16.0 3rd downs per game, plus a league best, and third in the nation, 8.0 3rd downs converted each game, their 50% rate is good enough for 12th in the country.
Sometimes you do not need to be great in everything to win. The Rebels are like that, they simply put long drives together and score. A straight forward and effective formula.
The Aggie defense is second worse in the league at 4.5 Red Zone trips by opponents with is 117th in the country, the majority of those are in the first quarter and 3.8 times their opponents score with is 108th. The defense allows 15.0 third downs a game.
The Aggies are weird, they have a -74-point differential in the first quarter and a +110-point differential the other three quarters. The stats for them are the same, terrible 1st quarter then great for the rest. Their biggest issue is the defense allowing teams to create long drives and score repeatedly when they reach the Red Zone.
Wyoming only converts 4.2 3rd down a game, at 109th in the country, a rate of 33.3% which is 102nd. The defense allows opponents to score 94.7% of the time they reach the Red Zone. The defense allows 15.4 3rd downs a game and 3.8 3rd down conversions with is 120th.
Like UNLV, the Cowboys do not have a lot of flaws, but do not excel at much. Simply put, they do not make many mistakes. Their issue is not being able to convert 3rd downs to keep drives going and the defense not being able to get off the field.