As always, Phil Steele’s annual college football preview magazine is a source of inspiration for looking at football, and football stats, in new ways.
Last year, I broke down the Yards Per Point stat that’s highlighted in the Phil Steele preview. This year, though, I wanted to look at something else — the yards per game differential in conference games.
Using last year’s final stats, I broke out the game-by-game statistics and looked at how the yards gained compared to the yards allowed in conference games — and then simply subtracted to find the difference.
Of course, yards aren’t the be-all, end-all statistic to track team strength. No stat is, really, although the closest is obviously a team’s win-loss record. But even wins and losses can sometimes be deceiving, so breaking out yards as a measure of a team’s relative strength can be useful to identify teams that either under- or over-performed based on what we might expect based on how many yards a team gained and gave up.
When I applied this measure to the 2018 Wyoming high school football season, some interesting revelations emerged:
- Class 2A champ Buffalo was fourth in its own conference in yardage difference.
- Class 3A Jackson obliterated the rest of the West Conference in yards gained, yet Star Valley went unbeaten in conference play and won the 3A title.
- There’s a huge gulf between the top and bottom teams in the 1A 11-man East.
- The teams that went winless in conference play (Gillette, Riverton, Powell, Newcastle, Lovell and Southeast) all finished last in their respective conferences in YPG differential.
Of course, one of the big things you can try to do with this data is compare it to conference standings and compare differences. Teams that finish higher in the conference standings but lower in YPG might have been more fortunate, or won more close games, or won the turnover battle — things that may not carry over to next season. The teams with the biggest differences were Laramie (fifth in 4A, but eighth in YPG) and previously mentioned Buffalo. Two other teams that might have been more “fortunate” in their win-loss records than the YPG would suggest were Big Piney (finished tied for second in the conference standings but was fifth in YPG) and Lander (finished third in the conference but fifth in YPG).
The team that was the least “fortunate” in its win-loss record may have been Thermopolis. The Bobcats finished fourth in the 2A East but were second in YPG differential.
The full YPG stats for conference play are below. (For Class 4A, total yards in all games, regular season and playoff, are included. No stats are included for Class 1A six-man, where per-game stat-keeping is inconsistent, as well as for Wyoming Indian, which played only one conference game.) And if you need a reminder of how the conference standings actually came together last year, click here.
|Class 4A||Off YPG||Def YPG||Difference|
|Class 3A East||Off YPG||Def YPG||Difference|
|Class 3A West||Off YPG||Def YPG||Difference|
|Class 2A East||Off YPG||Def YPG||Difference|
|Class 2A West||Off YPG||Def YPG||Difference|
|Class 1A 11-man East||Off YPG||Def YPG||Difference|
|Class 1A 11-man West||Off YPG||Def YPG||Difference|
Note: Big Piney and Lyman totals do not include yards that Lyman’s offense gained against Big Piney. Similarly, Pine Bluffs and Southeast totals do not include yards that Southeast’s offense gained against Pine Bluffs. Those totals were not available in the end-of-year season statistics.
So… whose win-loss record in conference play doesn’t match their yardage difference? What might that say about who’s ready for a breakthrough in 2019? Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.