One of my favorite purchases every summer is my copy of Phil Steele’s College Football Preview. I discovered the Phil Steele preview about 15 years ago and refer to it often throughout the season, and it’s the only college football preview I buy.

I love it because it flips a lot of conventional wisdom on its head to make its preseason predictions, looking not only at the win-loss record and who’s back but other factors like two-deep returners, turnover ratio, close games and, one of my favorite stats, yards per point.

Entering the 2018 season, I decided to break down the yards-per-point stat for Wyoming high school football teams, both on offense and on defense. The formula is simple: number of yards gained (or allowed) divided by the number of points scored (or allowed).

On offense, you want a LOWER YPP — that means you’re scoring a lot of points in comparison to the number of yards you’re gaining. A higher YPP means usually means one of two things: you’re gaining yards but not scoring points, or you’re not gaining yards and scoring basically zilch.

On defense, you want a HIGHER YPP — teams may get their yards, but they won’t get their points. High YPPs on defense show either a team that bends but doesn’t break or a team that is on lockdown and doesn’t allow many yards OR many points.

In Phil Steele’s preview, he mentions that YPP is fluid. YPP measures efficiency, not strength. It’s a ratio, not a cumulation. Because of the fluidity of the stat, it’s also often a predictor of how well a team will do the following season. Teams that have really high (or low) YPPs usually have a tough time maintaining that (in)efficiency from year to year; exceptional outliers tend to indicate a particularly lucky (or unlucky) team that either succeeded or struggled because of bad breaks and inefficiency, which are more easily rectified than, say, a lack of talent.

When I dug into Wyoming’s high school football statistics from last season, I found six teams ripe for turnarounds, because they were in the bottom 10 statewide of both YPP offense and YPP defense: Shoshoni, Cheyenne South, Gillette, Burns, Wright and Jackson.

Conversely, seven teams were in the top 10 of both categories, and may have a tough time maintaining that efficiency (and success) in 2018: Pine Bluffs, Sheridan, Natrona, Cokeville, Star Valley, Torrington and Mountain View.

I also found a few weird outliers worth discussing.

One weird outlier — and potentially a team ready to benefit from better luck — is Powell. The Panthers finished dead last statewide in Offensive YPP, at 23.93. However, Powell’s defense checked in with a YPP of 12.4, dead smack in the middle of the statewide ranks. So Powell’s defense was solid, but its offense was horrendously inefficient at scoring points; looking at it that way, it’s no surprise they finished 1-7 despite having a good defense. A few more breaks go the Panthers’ way, and maybe they’re in the hunt in the 3A West. (Other programs with efficient defenses but inefficient offenses in 2017: Lusk, Lander and Kemmerer.)

Another weird outlier is Wind River, which finished 3-6 last year. The Cougars were seventh in the state in offensive YPP last season (10.31). But they were sixth-to-last statewide in defensive YPP (9.62). So the Cougars had one of the state’s most efficient offenses and one of its least efficient defenses, all in the same season. Will the real Wind River please stand up? (Other programs with efficient offenses but inefficient defenses in 2017: Saratoga, Tongue River, Thunder Basin and Rock Springs.)

Here’s a quick glance at the leaders statewide….

Top and bottom 10 in YPP Offense:

Top 10: Pine Bluffs (8.85), Sheridan (8.91), Natrona (9.32), Cokeville (9.44), Star Valley (9.66), Torrigton (9.73), Wind River (10.31), Big Piney (10.49), Mountain View (10.89), Glenrock (10.99).

Bottom 10: Powell (23.93), Shoshoni (23.53), Cheyenne South (23.1), Kemmerer (21.34), Lander (20.81), Lusk (19.83), Gillette (19.31), Burns (17.65), Wright (15.55), Jackson (15.13).

Top and bottom 10 in YPP Defense:

Top 10: Cokeville (32.85), Star Valley (26.86), Sheridan (23.04), Mountain View (22.13), Pine Bluffs (20.93), Cody (19.14), Buffalo (18.3), Natrona (18.11), Rocky Mountain (17.87), Torrington (17.24).

Bottom 10: Jackson (6.29), Cheyenne South (6.94), Gillette (7.06), Saratoga (8.12), Shoshoni (8.6), Wind River (9.62), Wright (9.73), Burns (9.95), Tongue River (10), Thunder Basin (10.61).

(These numbers include 11-man teams only. Six-man stats were too inconsistent to apply these methods.)

And here’s an unsponsored link to go buy Phil Steele’s college football preview.

–patrick

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