With nearly a full season in the books and all the accompanying stats on hand, I'm going to to attempt to glean what all this explosiveness means in terms of this week's pending state title game. To date, West and Capital have been two of the most explosive teams in the state. Offensively, Capital's PPP of 0.82 is far and away the best in AA, with West coming in second with a more-than-respectable 0.61. Defensively, West (probably not too surprisingly) has been far and away the best at eliminating the big play, as shown by their defensive PPP of 0.16, and Capital has registered an impressive (though not as strong) defensive PPP of 0.30.
So what does it all mean, really? After the jump, we'll compare some numbers between the two to try and get a better understanding of Friday's game.
In an effort to remove a variable from this experiment, I'm going to only consider common opponents for now. West and Capital faced nine common teams: Missoula Sentinel, Billings Skyview, Billings Senior, Helena, Missoula Hellgate, Butte, Great Falls, Flathead, and Bozeman. (Capital actually faced Skyview twice, but since West only played the Falcons once, I'm only including Capital's first game with Skyview in this study.)
Using these nine games, here's our new PPP numbers, followed in parentheses by what they posted over the course of the twelve games they played this season. First, the numbers on offense.
Offense West: 0.70 PPP (0.61 PPP) Capital: 0.87 PPP (0.82 PPP)
Both teams improved when only considering common opponents, and by about the same margin. West had improved a little more, most likely because when going by common opponents, this eliminated CMR (the second best defense according to PPP) from the equation.
Now, on to the defense.
Defense West: 0.16 PPP allowed (0.16 PPP allowed) Capital: 0.27 PPP allowed (0.30 PPP allowed)
No real surprises there. West maintained its season average, which is actually a testament to how good this defense has been: with an average so low, their PPP number really has nowhere to go but up. The fact that it didn't shows how consistent they've been; their average isn't dependent on feasting on some weaker offenses that Capital didn't have the luxury of facing. Capital's defensive PPP improved slightly, but I'm not sure a difference of .02 is significant here.
So what does this tell us? Honestly, I expected it to show that Capital faced a somewhat softer schedule. While West played Great Falls CMR twice, the best defenses outside of West that Capital faced was Great Falls, Skyview (twice) and Helena, opponents the Capital all had its way with in terms of PPP.
So assuming both teams faced roughly equal schedules means we should be able to place a little more weight in their season averages. Let's now compare them against what they posted in their Week 5 game. Once again, season averages follow in parentheses.
When West had the ball... West offense: 0.38 PPP (0.61 PPP) Capital defense: 0.38 PPP allowed (0.30 PPP allowed)
When Capital had the ball... Capital offense: 0.30 PPP (0.81 PPP) West defense: 0.30 PPP allowed (0.16 PPP allowed)
The game saw 43 points combined, yet defenses really ruled the day. Capital held West to about to about 60% of its offensive PPP output, and West held Capital to less than 20% of the Bruins standard offensive PPP. Offensively, neither team really came close to its usual explosiveness.
And while West was more explosive on offense, and its defense held Capital's explosive tenancies in check...Capital still won by one point. This was also despite West pulling off two of the most explosive plays of the game: two long touchdown passes to Josh Pelczar, each over 70 yards. To me, this is pretty strong evidence that while Capital has been the more explosive team throughout the season, West has depended on the explosive play to win. When they were successful in terms of PPP in the first half, they held a three touchdown lead. Capital limited the explosive play in the second half, effectively chopping West's legs out from underneath them.
Throughout the season, West has managed to win with a low PPP on offense against Helena and Great Falls. But the majority of their wins have come when they were explosive on offense AND defense. Against Capital, the defense was successful, while the offense faltered, especially in the second half.
Taking all that into consideration, I think it's clear what will be the biggest factor in this game. If Capital holds West's explosive plays in check, the Bruins should win. If West is successful with the big-play on offense (and the defense continues what it has done all season), the Bears should win.
It will be interesting to see if West can win this game without the big play, something I know from talking to the players is a key for them. So what do you think? Any chance this holds true?