Sunday, June 03, 2012


Hard to believe, but our SDPI odyssey is almost complete. We end with a league that is losing three teams heading into 2012 (Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada) and adding two teams (Texas State and Texas-San Antonio). Unfortunately, barring a significant turn of events, this will likely be the last season for WAC football. Everyone save Idaho and New Mexico State are leaving the conference after this season. While a league with two teams may be good for a coach's job security ('Hey, we finished in second place'), it does not portend a bright future. Enjoy what is likely be the last hurrah of the WAC. To see last year's WAC SDPI post, click here.

This first paragraph will explain how SDPI is calculated. So if you want the meat of this article skip on down. In the 2011 WAC regular season, conference play only, the average WAC team gained and allowed 2952.375 yards. The standard deviation for yards gained (offense) was 441.92 yards. The standard deviation for yards allowed (defense) was 248.97 yards. Fresno State gained 3275 yards and allowed 3098 yards. Their offensive SDPI was 0.73 = [(3275-2952.375)/441.92]. Their defensive SDPI was -0.58 = [(2952.375-3098)/248.97]. Their total SDPI was 0.15. This number ranked 4th in the WAC.

Here are the 2011 WAC standings.

Now here are the 2011 WAC SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 8 teams) in parentheses.

For the first time in a long time, Boise State was not at the top of the WAC standings; primarily because they were playing in the Mountain West. Among teams that were participating in the WAC in 2011, Louisiana Tech won their first conference championship since 2001. Elsewhere in the WAC, Utah State posted their first winning season since 1993 and will look to challenge the Bulldogs for what is the likely the final WAC championship in 2012.

So Who Was Better Than Their Record Showed?
Nevada, Louisiana Tech, and Utah State were the cream of the WAC crop in 2011, but Fresno State was a solid fourth place medalist. While the Bulldogs were below average on defense, their prolific offense seemingly should have kept them afloat. Unfortunately, they went just 1-3 in one-score conference games (2-4 in such games overall) and posted a league-worst turnover margin of -8 in WAC play. Those two factors, coupled with a non-conference schedule that included BCS conference teams Cal, Nebraska, and Ole Miss, as well as games against bowl-bound non-BCS conference teams Boise State and San Diego State sunk the Bulldogs to a 4-9 record and got coach Pat Hill canned.

So Who Was Worse Than Their Record Showed?
After opening the conference season with a pounding at the hands of Hawaii, Louisiana Tech rolled through their final six WAC foes and grasped the league title. While the Bulldogs acquitted themselves quite well in non-conference action, losing close games to top-20 teams Houston, Southern Miss, and TCU (as well as Mississippi State), the Bulldogs were not quite as dominant within the WAC as their 6-1 mark would attest. The Bulldogs won both of their one-score league games (making up for the goose egg outside the league) and also posted a fantastic +11 turnover margin in their seven league games (+14 in their final six!). Things have a way of evening out over time, so the 2012 season will not be a cakewalk as the Bulldogs seek to defend their conference title.

Conference Superlatives:

Best Offense: Nevada 1.73
The Pistol offense did not misfire despite the loss of triggerman Colin Kaepernick. After opening with just 373 yards against San Jose State, the Wolfpack averaged 557 yards per game in their final six league contests.

Worst Offense: Idaho -1.73
First the bad news. The Vandals averaged just 313 yards per game in the WAC, roughly 79 yards per game fewer than the second-worst offense (San Jose State). Now the good news. The Vandals averaged 367 yards per game over their final three conference games. More bad news. That number still would have ranked last in the WAC.

Best Defense: Louisiana Tech 1.50
After being bludgeoned by Hawaii to the tune of 494 yards and 44 points in their conference opener, the Bulldogs allowed an average of just 347 yards and 16 points per game over their final six league contests.

Worst Defense: New Mexico State -1.65
Outside of a lockdown of Idaho (the league's worst offense), the Aggies gave up at least 419 yards to every other conference opponent.

Getting Offensive in Las Cruces
Things have not been easy for head coach DeWayne Walker in his first three seasons at New Mexico State. The Aggies have won just nine games in three seasons, with a third of them coming against fellow in-state bottom feeder New Mexico. Walker's first two teams were especially inept on the offensive side of the ball (not that they were world beaters on defense either). The table below summarizes New Mexico State's offensive output in WAC play over Walker's three seasons.
In their first two seasons, the Aggies scored 18 offensive touchdowns in 16 WAC games. That's not good. The Aggies had as nearly as many games without scoring an offensive touchdown (5) as they had scoring multiple touchdowns (6). Things picked up a bit in season number three as the Aggies scored 24 offensive touchdowns, besting the combined totals from 2009 and 2019, in just seven league games. They were held without a touchdown just once (against Louisiana Tech) and scored multiple touchdowns in each of the other six games. Unfortunately, their defense was the worst in the WAC and their scoring efforts only netted them two league wins (equaling their totals from 2009 and 2010). Can the Aggies once again post decent offensive numbers in 2012? Probably. Quarterback Andrew Manley opened the 2011 season posting solid numbers against three decent non-conference opponents (Ohio, Minnesota, and UTEP) before being lost for the season. That the Aggies posted average (by WAC standards) offensive numbers without him indicates they should be able to maintain a moderate level of play on the offensive side of the ball. Also keep in mind that three of the historically stronger schools from the WAC are now in the Mountain West (Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada) replaced by a pair of schools moving up to IA (Texas State and Texas-San Antonio). Its not hard to envision New Mexico State finishing with at least a .500 conference record for the first time since their days in the Sun Belt.