Thursday, April 19, 2018

2017 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: Mountain West

Last week, we looked at how Mountain West teams fared in terms of yards per play. This week, we turn our attention to how the season played out in terms of the Adjusted Pythagorean Record, or APR. For an in-depth look at APR, click here. If you didn’t feel like clicking, here is the Reader’s Digest version. APR looks at how well a team scores and prevents touchdowns. Non-offensive touchdowns, field goals, extra points, and safeties are excluded. The ratio of offensive touchdowns to touchdowns allowed is converted into a winning percentage. Pretty simple actually.

Once again, here are the 2017 Mountain West standings.
And here are the APR standings sorted by division with conference rank in offensive touchdowns, touchdowns allowed, and APR in parentheses. This includes conference games only, with the championship game excluded.
Finally, Mountain West teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
Utah State was the only Mountain West team that saw their actual record differ significantly from their APR. Utah State also under-performed based on what we would expect from their YPP numbers and we went over a few reasons for that last week.

In 2017, Wyoming finished with a winning record and participated in a bowl game for the second consecutive season. This marked the first time the Cowboys posted consecutive winning seasons since 1999 when they finished up a run of five straight winning campaigns. However, the Cowboys went about posting those winning records in drastically different ways. In 2016, the Cowboys emerged from out of nowhere to win the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. Led by presumptive first round draft choice Josh Allen as well as a few other future NFL players, the Cowboys were involved in numerous shootouts. In conference play, the Cowboys scored 40 offensive touchdowns while allowing 35. Those 75 total touchdowns meant the average Wyoming conference game featured nearly ten combined offensive touchdowns! Despite Allen’s return in 2017, the Cowboys were not able to overcome their other losses on offense and the team scored just 21 offensive touchdowns in conference play. Fortunately, at the same time the offense was cratering, the defense was getting its act together. The Cowboys allowed just 14 offensive touchdowns in 2017 and the team was in contention for another division title until late November. In 2017, the average Wyoming conference game featured just a little over four combined offensive touchdowns, or less than half of the 2016 total. Whereas in 2016, the Cowboys lost a conference game despite scoring 66 points (just 52 in regulation), in 2017, they won a conference game despite scoring just 16 points. Overall, the 40 touchdown difference in combined offensive touchdowns in conference play marked the third largest decrease since 2005!
In a nice coincidence, the other instances occurred in the same season. Oklahoma went from having one of the best offenses on earth in 2008 to being merely decent on that side of the ball in 2009. However, the defense improved substantially, allowing the Sooners to remain a quality team despite five regular season losses. Nebraska more closely resembles Wyoming as they went from being involved in a lot of shootouts to nearly winning the Big 12 title despite not scoring an offensive touchdown in the title game. Obviously, they had a little more star power on defense than Wyoming, but otherwise, the comparison is apt.

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