Projection Room



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ESPN.com has an interesting look at a preliminary BCS Standings forecast. As noted, BYU is historically the highest-ranked non-BCS team at this stage of the college football season.

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A couple of top-of-my-head notes from last night's "Bronco Mendenhall Show":

-Bronco is not concerned about any of his underclassmen (e.g. Pitta, Collie, Unga) leaving for the NFL after this season. He notes (not surprisingly) that more NFL scouts have appeared on campus this year than in any of his previous years at BYU.

-WR Michael Reed "will be back" for the home game with New Mexico. He adds that linebackers Grant Nelson and Terrance Hooks are both back with the team, and that an "aggressive" timeline could have them ready for New Mexico, but that a more "conservative" estimate has them getting in the game at TCU. Nelson will provide depth at outside linebacker, while Hooks will play inside.

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BYU has won 18 consecutive games when "even" or "plus" in turnover margin. Bronco Mendenhall is 23-3 when "even" or "plus" in the margin.

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BYU is the ONLY team in the FBS yet to attempt a single fourth down conversion.

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BYU is one of only five teams ranked in the Top 15 in both scoring offense (11) and scoring defense (7). BYU's "total ranking" of 18 trails only Texas (12; 6th offense, 6th defense) and Penn State (15; 4th offense, 11th defense).

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BYU is ranked 27th nationally in total defense, but 7th in scoring defense. The "positive ranking disparity" of +20 leads the Mountain West Conference. Utah (5th total defense; 41st scoring defense) is next-to-last in the MWC, with a "negative ranking disparity" of -36. While total defense is a valid indicator of a team's defensive strength, points scored and allowed determine wins and losses, and as such, scoring defense is the more important, and comprehensive stat. Under Bronco Mendenhall, the defensive philosophy of "bend, but don't break" forces opponents to consistently execute (usually on longer fields) to find the end zone. So far, BYU's opponents have found gaining yards easier than scoring points, and have turned the ball over 12 times in the process.

In general terms, teams like BYU force their opponents to "work harder" for their points, while teams like Utah allow more "cheap scores."

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Furthermore, BYU allows a point for every 27.6 yards allowed, while by comparison, Utah allows a point for every 11.8 yards allowed. BYU's defensive "yards-to-point" ratio of 27.6 is the only MWC ratio greater than 20 (Air Force is 2nd at 19.9). Of the top 10 teams nationally in scoring defense (including BYU), eight have ratios of 20:1 or greater. The higher the ratio, the better the team is doing at keeping both opponent yards AND points down. For example, Kentucky has a nation's best ratio of 41.3:1, and the Wildcats are 1st in scoring defense; 4th in total defense (not coincidentally, they're also 4-0).

Utah, in particular, should be better than it is at keeping points off the board. The Utes are ranked 5th in total defense, but have a worse defensive "yards-to-point" ratio than the teams ranked 118th and 119th in total defense:

Utah (5th in total defense): 11.8 yard per point

Washington (118th in total defense): 12.5 yards per point

SMU (119th in total defense): 12.0 yards per point

Note: scoring defense stats include any scores given up by the offense, thus they don't portray a "pure" defensive rating. And, offensive turnovers often have the defense guarding a short field, thus fewer yards to cover before surrendering a score. But, for purposes of this examination, "yards-to-point" ratios are helpful in determining which teams are good at keeping both yards and points down.

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BYU has 12 touchbacks on 30 kickoffs (40%). Opponents have 2 touchbacks on 11 kickoffs (18%). Last year, BYU had one touchback on 75 kickoffs (1.33%), while opponents had 8 touchbacks on 56 kickoffs (14%).

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