Tuesday, June 09, 2009

WAC Review: 2005-2008

In addition to the SDPI posts, another offseason interest of mine has been to look at how each IA conference has shaken out since 2005. I chose 2005 as the starting point because that was the year the ACC expanded to 12 teams, the Big East added 3 new members and booted Temple, Conference USA added a championship game, the Mountain West added TCU, the WAC looted the Sun Belt after several of its members joined Conference USA, and the Sun Belt added 2 independents from Florida (FAU and FIU). Since 2005, there has only been one change in any IA conference. That was the expansion of the MAC by a single team with the addition of Temple. This week, we'll go west and meet the Gonzaga of college football, Boise State. First here are the cummlative Western Athletic Conference standings since 2005.There's domination, and then there's what Boise State has done to the rest of the WAC over the past four seasons (heck since they've been in the league). The table below lists each team's cummulative scoring margin in conference play since 2005. That +789 number means Boise has outscored their WAC opponents by more than 24 and a half points per game over the past four season. You can see, both by the record and scoring margin, that the Fresno State program has taken a fall over the past four seasons. They have been usurped as second banana to Boise by both Hawaii and Nevada. Louisiana Tech has had an interesting roller coaster ride over the past four seasons. In 2005, they finished 6-2 in the league (7-4) overall, but did not receive a postseason invite. The following season, the wheels came off and Tech finished 1-7 in the league (tied for last with Utah State). Head coach Jack Bicknell was given a pink slip and the progeny of Vince Dooley (Derek) was hired to coach the team. Tech improved to 4-4 in WAC play in 2007. In their first conference game, they nearly derailed Hawaii's dream season before it got started, falling to the Warriors 45-44 in OT. Tech went 5-3 this past season and won their first bowl game since 1977.

Now here is each team's home record in conference play since 2005.Again, no surprise at the very top. Boise has not lost a home game to a WAC foe since joining the conference in 2001. In fact, Boise has not lost a conference home game since 1998, when they fell to fellow Big West member North Texas on October 10th. Elsewhere in the WAC, Hawaii comes in with the second best homefield advantage. This won't surprise many observers, as Hawaii has a reputation as a notoriously tough place to play. However, what may surprise folks, is that Hawaii has been nearly just as good away from the islands. Their 11-5 road record in the WAC is the second best mark over the past four seasons (behind only Boise's 14-2 record). One unique aspect of the WAC since 2005 is that no team has a better road record than home record. New Mexico State and Idaho both have the same putrid record in Las Cruces and Moscow as they do away from home (2-14 for the Aggies and 3-13 for the Vandals). The biggest discrepancy between home and road record belongs to the San Jose State Spartans. The Spartans are 9-7 at home and 6-10 on the road against league foes since 2005. Of course, this is all relative as no WAC team has performed significantly better at home as compared with the other conferences we've examined.

Now here is how homefield advantage shakes out in the WAC (in conference play only) with respect to the nation at large (with rank out of the 11 IA conferences in parentheses).After two seasons of slightly above average home performances, the WAC has slipped toward the bottom of IA in homefield advantage. Overall, the league ranks eighth since 2005. This is a sign that the better teams tend to win no matter where the game is played,

Next up is how each WAC team stacks up offensively for each season. This is the ranking of yards per game in conference play.Until 2008, the most consistent offense in the WAC belonged to the Hawaii Warriors. Think the departure of June Jones may have had something to do with their slide? On the mainland, the most consistently good offenses have been those at Boise and Reno. It's a little surprising that Boise has never lead the league in total offense. The most consistently bad offense has been that of Idaho. The Vandals have finished second to last in total offense each of the past four seasons. If you had taken the pulse of the New Mexico State program after the 2006 season, one would have thought it was quickening. Hal Mumme had just completed his second season in Las Cruces and the Aggies had finished behind only Hawaii and Boise in offense. Surely his air raid attack would wreck havoc on the rest of the conference. However, his charges dipped to the middle of the league in 2007, and then bottomed out in 2008, finishing ahead of only offensive luminaries Idaho and San Jose State. Not surprsingly, Mumme ball has been laid to rest. One can only hope Brendan Frasier can revive it.

And finally, here are the defensive rankings for each team. This is yards allowed per game in conference play.This is where Boise State has made their mark in the WAC. The national media likes to emphasize the skill position players and the high-octane offense Boise has run as the key to their success (not to mention their numerous gadget plays like those employed in the Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma), but the defense has been the dominant force in their foray through the WAC. They have boasted the league's best defense three years running, with a silver medal thrown in for good measure in 2005. They are the only team to have been in the top half of the league's defensive rankings each season. What's happened to Fresno State? After owning the league's best defense in 2005 (the year they gave Southern Cal all they could handle), the Bulldogs have been either mediocre or awful defensively. Dick Tomey, who popularized the 'Desert Swarm' defense during his time at Arizona, still knows a thing or two about that side of the ball. After a rough go of it in his first season (2005), his Spartans have been in the top four defensively each of the past three seasons. Also note the uptick in Hawaii's defensive ranking when Greg McMackin returned to the coordinator duties in 2007 (he became the head coach in 2008).


Anonymous said...

Nice work

Enjoying the read and appreicate the effort

Anonymous said...

Thank you for confirming what I already assumed to be true, boise State dominates the WAC in literally every category! Amen to that.

Anonymous said...

Just a minor correction: Boise State's last home conference loss was in the last regular season game of 1998 vs. Idaho.

Of course, Western Kentucky will join the Sun Belt this year as a full member, but that doesn't have any bearing on 2005-2008 stats...