BYU Football: Looking at the Cougars' 'Questionable' Pass Defense

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BYU Football: Looking at the Cougars' 'Questionable' Pass Defense
George Frey/Getty Images

In preparation for the BYU vs. Washington State football game, one of the consistent themes of BYU criticizers (mostly Utah fans, with a couple WSU Cougars mixed in) is that BYU's defensive stats from last year were inflated due to their weaker schedule, and that they had significant problems defending against the pass.

While there was likely some stat inflation, what I was most concerned about (for obvious reasons, with Washington State coming up) was the BYU pass defense. So, I decided to crunch the numbers and here are the results:

1. Last year, BYU's opponents averaged 193.5 yards through the air against the Cougars. This number by itself has little meaning, but combined with the next couple of numbers, it helps us get a better picture of the Cougars' ability to defend the pass.

2. BYU opponents averaged 238.2 passing yards per game against their non-BYU opponents. In other words, they threw for over 23 percent more yards against their other opponents than they did against BYU. 

This helps us get a better picture, but is still incomplete since only five of the Cougars' 2011 opponents currently play in BCS conferences. Being better than the WAC or CUSA doesn't say a whole lot.

3. During the 2011 regular season, the Cougars gave up only 10 passing TDs and came up with 13 interceptions. Put it together, and the QBs opposing the Cougars averaged 193.5 YPG and had 10 TDs and 13 INTs. That is pretty impressive (or depressing, if you are the one trying to move the ball against the Cougar D).

4. The last set of stats is how well they did against AQ teams. 'Ole Miss, Texas, Utah, Oregon State and TCU QBs combined to average 190.3 yards, one TD and one INT per game.

Summary: While the thought of facing BYU's pass defense doesn't exactly terrify the average college football fan, it definitely has (or should have) the attention of those teams' coaches. 

The numbers also show that the defensive stat-bearpadding assumed by BYU critics bears little or no supporting evidence as we see by comparing them side by side:

  Passing yards per game Passing TD per Game BYU INTs per game
vs. AQ teams 190.3 1.0 1.0
vs. Non AQ teams 195.9 0.7 1.1
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