Mountain West Football: 12 Statistics That Will Shape The 2019 Season
Each Mountain West football team has one measure that will shape their 2019 season.
Here’s what is worth noticing.
Mountain West football season is nearly here and it seems like the race to the top of the conference is more wide open than it has been in some time. With so much personnel change across the board, things could turn on the little things that don’t always appear obvious at first glance… but what are some of those things that fans should be aware of?
Here are the key statistics that could ultimately shape who ends up where in 2019:
The key: Yards per pass attempt allowed
Pass defense has been a question mark for the Falcons through the past few seasons, but last year was particularly rough. Air Force allowed nine yards per attempt through the air, the team’s worst figure of the last ten seasons, which goes a long way toward explaining why they were also 125th in Pass Defense S&P+ and Passing Downs Defense S&P+.
A secondary that could break up more passes — they were last in the Mountain West there, too, with just 29 passes defended — would help the Falcons fulfill their promise as a dark horse pick in the Mountain division.
The key: Third-down Success Rate
Last year’s Broncos set a lot of high bars for this year’s iteration to match, but regression seems almost certain by this particular metric. In short, the Broncos were eighth nationally in avoiding third-and-7-or-more and fifth nationally in setting themselves up for third-and-1, and then they were second overall in success rate on all of their third downs.
The question here, then, is how much regression there will be. With a new running back and a new quarterback set to replace Alexander Mattison and Brett Rypien, a big slip could put a huge dent in how efficient the offense will be.
The key: Defensive success rate on Standard Downs
A standard down is defined as “first downs, second-and-7 or fewer, third-and-4 or fewer, and fourth-and-4 or fewer” and, well, the Rams just weren’t good any of those situations last fall, ranking 125th by allowing opponents 50% of what they needed on first downs, 70% on second, and 100% on third and fourth.
Put simply, Colorado State will need to win more early downs if the defense wants to rebound from allowing a conference-worst 6.79 yards per play.
The key: Defensive stuff rate
For as tough as the Bulldogs were on defense in 2018, the fact that they stopped running backs at or behind the line of scrimmage just 15.8% of the time, a figure that ranked 112th nationally, may come as a surprise. With nearly everyone coming back on the defensive line, however, and Mykal Walker at middle linebacker, they seem almost certain to improve and should offset some potential regression elsewhere.
The key: Rushing yards per carry
One of the things that might have gotten overlooked as the Warriors offense sputtered after a hot start is that the ground game, while not the most important element of the run-and-shoot, had a fairly significant decline throughout 2018. After averaging well over five yards a carry in the team’s first six games, Hawaii’s duo of Fred Holly and Dayton Furuta mustered only 3.89 YPC in the last seven.
Adding Miles Reed to the committee is almost certain to help, but whoever totes the rock will have to do their fair share to keep defenses from teeing off on Cole McDonald.
The key: Giveaways
One of the most surprising notes from last season is that the Wolf Pack had their most successful season since 2010 despite finishing with a Mountain West-worst 28 giveaways. There was no one culprit for this, either, since Ty Gangi and Cristian Solano combined to throw 17 interceptions, tied with New Mexico for the most in the conference, while Nevada’s quartet of running backs lost five of ten fumbles.
Greater care with the football is significant to every team, but if the defense is slow to coalesce in replacing stars like Malik Reed and Asauni Rufus, it could be especially so for a Wolf Pack team with every right to feel they have a chance at a division title.