One of my favorite set of posts from last offseason was the conference recap using SDPI. SDPI is a statistic I borrowed from Eddie Epstein that he used in his book, Dominance, to rank pro football's all-time greatest teams. SDPI stands for Standard Deviation Power Index and looks at how teams performed relative to the league average (or conference average in this case) and standard deviation in terms of points scored and allowed. The more standard deviations a team is above the mean, the better they are, and vice-versa. Here is the link to last year's WAC post. As you can see, SDPI was a useful tool in predicting some of the rise and fall among the WAC's teams. In the interest of providing an even better offseason analysis, I will now be conducting another SDPI, this time for yardage. It is calculated in the same manner as the SDPI for points, but will obviously be measured against the conference mean and standard deviation for yards. Think of it this way: Points are the end result and yards are the means to that end. Thus, looking at both sets of data, we can get an even better idea about which teams are likely to improve or regress in 2008.
If you want the meat of the article, skip this next paragraph as it just gives an example of how the SDPI is calculated. The mean points scored and allowed for all WAC teams in conference play was 246.33 points. The standard deviation for points scored was 81.18. The standard deviation for points allowed was 46.96. Louisiana Tech scored 199 points in WAC play and allowed 237. Their offensive SDPI was -0.58 = ([199-246.33]/81.18). Their defensive SDPI was 0.20 = ([246.33-237]/46.96). Their total SDPI for points (SDPIP) was -0.38 which ranked 6th in the conference. The mean yardage for and against for all WAC teams in conference play was 3342.33 yards. The standard deviation for yardage for was 631.76. The standard deviation for yards allowed was 339.76. Louisiana Tech gained 3119 yards in conference play and allowed 3430. Their offensive SDPI was -0.35 = ([3119-3342.33]/631.76). Their defensive SDPI was -0.26 = ([3342.33-3430]/339.76). Their total SDPI for yards (SDPIY) was -0.61 which ranked 5th in the conference.
To refresh your memory, here are the 2007 WAC Standings.
Now here are the 2007 SDPI standings.
The actual standings are pretty in line with the SDPI standings. Hawaii and Boise State dominated their WAC foes in 2007. As we'll see later, that's par for the course for the Broncos. Fresno State's third place finish in SDPIP aligns pretty well with their third place in the actual standings, but in SDPIY, they were actually sixth--ahead of only rif-raf Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State.
Best Offense: Boise State 1.71 (SDPIP), Hawaii 1.41 (SDPIY)
The Bronocs scored the most points in WAC play, and the Warriors gained the most yards. Boise State has led the WAC in scoring in 5 of their 7 years in the league.
Worst Offense: Idaho -1.00 (SDPIP), Utah State -1.50 (SDPIY)
The Vandals and Aggies staged an epic pillow fight in the last game for both teams--a 24-19 Aggie win in the Kibbie Dome on November 24th.
Best Defense: Boise State 1.43 (SDPIP) and 1.45 (SDPIY)
Nevada and Hawaii combined to gouge the Broncos' defense for 1213 yards. The other 6 WAC schools managed only 1638.
Worst Defense: New Mexico State -1.50 (SDPIP), Utah State -1.29 (SDPIY)
It should come as no surprise that both Aggie squads combined to go 3-13 in WAC play.
Looking ahead to next season, the prohibitive favorite should be...
not Fresno State
Pat Hill's Bulldogs will likely be getting a lot of love in the preseason magazines after closing with victories over Kansas State and Georgia Tech sandwiched around a win over New Mexico State. And why not lavish the Bulldogs with the title of 'Team to Beat'. Quarterback Tom Brandstater is back for his senior season, 2/3rds of the running back committee return, 5 of 6 players who caught more than 10 passes are back, and the offensive line in nigh intact. What's not to love? For starters, the team's leading tackler and defensive leader, linebacker Marcus Riley is gone, as is the leading sacker, Tyler Clutts. Secondly, the Bulldogs statistics point to a middling WAC team looking to take a step toward the top of the league, not a team already at the precipice looking down on their opponents. Fresno State finished 6th in the WAC in yards per game and 7th in yards allowed per game last season. They were outgained on average by about 55 yards per game. That number is not artificially inflated by their losses to Boise State and Hawaii. They were outgained in 6 of their 8 conference games (Louisiana Tech, Nevada, Idaho and San Jose State were the other 4). Thirdly, Pat Hill, despite his great success in Sillicon Valley, has never won the WAC. And finally, Boise State. Here's what the Broncos have done to WAC teams on the Smurf Turf since joining the conference in 2001.In 7 years the Broncos have been in the WAC, they have played 3 one-score games at home. They defeated Tulsa 27-20 in 2003, Hawaii 41-34 in 2006, and Nevada 69-67 in OT this past season. The Bulldogs must travel to Boise this season, so in all likelihood, the Broncos will have the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs if it comes to that.
The team(s) that will improve are...
With the massive personnel losses in Hawaii, the unsettled quarterback situation coupled with the loss of stellar tackle Ryan Clady at Boise State, and the aforementioned issues at Fresno State, the real darkhorse in the 2008 WAC race is the Nevada Wolfpack. Last season the Wolfpack had the second most prolific offense (in terms of yardage) and the third best defense in the WAC. The 'Pistol' offense should be quite prolific once again and could blow up big time. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick exploded onto the scene with a dazzling freshman year. Kaepernick averaged almost 9 yards per pass (8.8) and threw 19 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions. He also gained 593 yards on the ground, making him a poor man's Tim Tebow. If he can improve his completion percentage (53.8%), he could take another step forward and perhaps set himself up as a sleeper Heisman candidate in his junior and senior seasons. The top receiver (Marko Mitchell) and rusher (Luke Lippincott) are also back as well as 4 starters from the offensive line. The Wolfpack do lose 3 of their top 4 tacklers plus their best defender, linebacker Nick Fuhr, but the offense should make up for most of the shortcomings of the defense and keep the Wolfpack in the conference race. With non-conference games against Texas Tech and Missouri, don't be surprised if most observers have written off the Wolfpack in mid-September, only to have a late November home game against Boise State decide the WAC Championship.
The team(s) that will decline are...
June Jones. Gone. Colt Brennan. Gone. Quartet of fantastic receivers. Gone. Tyler Graunke proved himself to be an admirable replacement for Brennan last season, but the Warriors' offense will experience some growing pains in 2008. The schedule is pretty tough too. The Warriors must face Boise State and Fresno State on the road in WAC-play, but that's not the worst of it. The Warriors open the season in Gaineville against the Gators, a game that should be uglier than the Sugar Bowl debacle. Two weeks later they travel to Corvallis to take on Oregon State. Finally, the Warriors close the regular season at home against Washington State and Cincinnati. Getting back to a bowl game would be a big accomplishment for Greg McMackin in his first year on the job.
Time to Bury Mumme Ball?
In 3 seasons in Las Cruces, Hal Mumme has posted an 8-29 record (3-21 in WAC play). 4 of those 8 wins have come over teams that do not play Division IA football. Mumme was given a pass in his first season, an 0-12 debacle, because he didn't have his players. In 2006, quarterback Chase Holbrook, who followed Mumme from SE Louisiana, became eligible and the Aggies finished 3rd in the WAC in yards per game. Big things, or at least a bowl game, were expected in 2007, but the Aggies struggled mightily. Mumme's offense was actually below average in WAC games, finishing 5th in the league in yards per game, about 19 yards fewer then the 'average' WAC team. New Mexico State has some positive indicators heading into 2008. Their turnover margin, second to last in league play at -5, is chief among them. It also stands to reason that Mumme's offense and Holbrook in particular (he is entering his senior season) could improve and lead the team to a bowl game. Still, SDPI ranks the Aggies 8th in one measure (yards) and 9th or dead last in another (points), so the Aggies have a long way to go. If the Aggies don't get to a bowl game, it may be time to cut ties with Mumme. He's done much worse so far than his predecessor, Tony Samuel, did in his final 3 seasons.