Some of you may know that I interact with people on Twitter. I’m not the official twitterguy for the Musket, I have my own account that I interact with. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m opinionated. It’s the reason why my articles are not “the coach said this” but actual thoughts I have in my head - rightly or wrongly. A follower messaged me - WVStatsGuy - and asked if there were any stats or items that would make a good article. I asked about Available Yard Percentage, specifically, just how good is the current defense at holding teams to below their current season totals? Is this defense simply facing bad teams or are they making a difference in games? Here is what he put together.
Comparing yards per game or points per game isn’t always the best way to quantify the effectiveness of a team’s offense or defense. Since each game has its own unique pace and number of drives, instead comparing stats per drive can lead to a more telling comparison.
Offensive Available Yards percentage (“OAY”) is a drive-level metric that helps evaluate how well an offense is operating. OAY is calculated by dividing an offense’s total yards gained by the yards they technically could have gained on each drive. For example, if the Mountaineers started a drive at their own 20 yard line and progressed to the opponent’s 20 yard line, they would have gained 60 of the 80 available yards, a 75% OAY. For reference, having an OAY around 55% or greater is a good indicator of a top-tier offense. In 2018, Will Grier’s senior year, WVU boasted a 57.3% OAY (9th nationally).
We can use Defensive Available Yards (“DAY”) in the same way to evaluate a defense. Was the defense really good in a particular game or did the other team only have 9 possessions, putting them under their season yards average? Looking at available yards can help us answer questions like this.
If you want more validation that the WVU defense is legit this year, this is it. West Virginia has held EVERY opponent under their season average in available yards.
The Mountaineer D completely dismantled several teams leading to a less than 30% OAY. The dividing-line here for the WVU defense is in the low 40s. WVU has won every game where they have held their opponent OAY under 41% and lost every game where their opponent topped 43%. The remaining two games will feature the top two teams in OAY in the Big 12. Slowing down the high-powered Sooners and Cyclones will be imperative for a Mountaineer win to round out the regular season.
As you can see, this validates what we all already know, this defense is legit. It can make a difference against teams and the team is winning because of the defense. Where we are struggling is when teams are meeting or close to meeting their season averages. Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech were all near their season averages in available yards and we lost. The only outlier is TCU. Holding the Oklahoma Sooners to under 41% of their available yards is a near pipe dream for a team gaining almost 60% but Iowa State now looks like a team the Mountaineers can affect with their defense.