7 down, 4 to go. This week, we'll review what happened in the Mountain West in 2009, the second year in a row the mid-major league placed a team in a BCS Bowl.
This first paragraph will explain how SDPI is calculated. So if you want the meat of this article skip on down. In the 2009 Mountain West regular season, conference play only, the average Mountain West team gained and allowed 2901.67 yards. The standard deviation for yards gained (offense) was 502.05 yards. The standard deviation for yards allowed (defense) was 541.12 yards. BYU gained 3455 yards and allowed 2712 yards. Their offensive SDPI was 1.10 = [(3455-2901.67)/502.05]. Their defensive SDPI was 0.35 = [(2901.67-2712)/541.12)]. Their total SDPI was 1.45. This number ranked 2nd in the Mountain West.
To refresh your memory, here are the 2009 Mountain West standings.
Now here are the 2009 Mountain West SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 9 teams) in parentheses.At the top of the league, the actual standings line up pretty well with the SDPI standings. When we get to the middle though, things are a little scattered. Wyoming, which was statistically one of the worst teams in the league (just a shade better than UNLV), broke even in conference play and actually won a bowl game. Similarly, Colorado State and San Diego State were statistically the class of the conference outside of the top-4, but both combined to win only 2 league games, with the Rams actually going winless in league play. The culprit as usual, was close games and turnovers. Wyoming was 3-0 in one-score conference games, besting UNLV, San Diego State, and Colorado State by a combined 7 points. The Cowboys were also pretty successful in the turnover department, going +4 in conference play, good for 3rd in the league. Meanwhile, Colorado State lost all 3 of their one-score league games, falling to Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming by a combined 10 points. The Rams also finished -6 in turnover margin, tied for 2nd to last in the league. San Diego State did not fare quite as poorly in close games, going 1-2 against their Mountain West foes, but they had by far the worst turnover margin in conference play finishing at -12.
Best Offense: TCU 2.03
The Horned Frogs seemed to get better as the year progressed. After averaging 435 yards and 34 points in their first 3 conference games, TCU cranked those numbers up to 523 yards and 49 points over their final 5. They also hit the infamous 'double nickel' twice in wins over San Diego State and Utah.
Worst Offense: Wyoming -1.35
The Cowboys averaged under 300 yards per game in league play (278) and were held below 250 yards 5 times. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys went 1-4 in those games.
Best Defense: TCU 1.96
In an amazing feat, no Mountain West team topped the 300-yard mark against TCU. BYU came the closest, gaining 298 yards in their 31-point home loss to the Frogs.
Worst Defense: UNLV -1.26
Save for a stellar showing against New Mexico, when they allowed a season low (vs IA teams) 287 yards, other Mountain West teams had an easy go of it. Their other 7 conference opponents averaged 471 yards against the Rebel defense.
What's in Store for Next Year?
The battle at the top in 2010 should look much the same as it has for the past several seasons. TCU, BYU, and Utah should battle for league supremacy. TCU and Utah have the edge over the Cougars who are losing both their starting quarterback, who has exhausted his eligibility, and their starting running back, who violated the school's honor code. Air Force is once again poised to be the 4th bets team in the Mountain West, though its not inconceivable for them to overtake BYU if they catch some breaks. With 4 bowl slots likely spoken for, which team is most likely to rise from the mire and qualify for the postseason? I'd say take your pick from San Diego State, Colorado State, and if you're feeling very lucky UNLV. San Diego State and Colorado State were much stronger than their wins and losses showed last season. San Diego State brings back more talent on offense, but the Rams bring back more on defense. While UNLV was statistically the worst team in the league last season, they made one of the better coaching hires in the offseason by luring Bobby Hauck away from Montana. While at Montana, Hauck led the Grizzlies to the playoffs in each of his 7 seasons, thrice taking them to the I-AA Championship Game. Of course, the last successful Montana coach to come to the Mountain West (Hauck's predecessor as Grizzlies coach, Joe Glenn) didn't exactly work out. Elsewhere, Wyoming seems poised to take a dip after achieving far more than their middling peripherals would indicate. And finally, at the bottom of the league, we have Los Lobos. It wasn't that long ago that New Mexico was the clear cut 4th fiddle in the league, finishing bowl eligible for 7 consecutive seasons from 2001-2007 under Rocky Long. However, the Lobos suffered through some poor luck and finished 4-8 in 2008. Then in 2009, they were just plain poor, winning only a single game and dropping to 1-11. Their SDPI numbers didn't suggest they were much better and with a new quarterback throwing to inexperienced receivers, 2010 doesn't offer much hope.