The 2015 football regular season is in the books and the Air Force Falcons will be playing the San Diego State Aztecs in the Mountain West championship game. With that in mind let’s see where our two title game participants ranked in this year’s toxic differential standings. What is the toxic differential you ask? The toxic differential is a statistic calculated in two steps. First, count the number of explosive plays (plays of 10-plus yards on the ground and plays of 20-plus yards through the air) a team produces and subtract how many explosive plays their defense gave up. Take this number and combine it with the team’s turnover margin for a final toxic differential number. The differential is a very good indicator if an NFL team will make the playoffs or not and over the years I have found it translates to college football as well. In general good teams will have a high positive differential and bad teams will have a high negative differential with so-so teams somewhere in the mushy middle. Below are the 2015 Mountain West toxic standings with stats courtesy from our friends at cfbstats.com.
It should come as no surprise that according to the toxic differential the two best teams in each division did in fact win their division and they also happen to be the two best teams in the entire conference so we should be in store for a great football game. Additionally, 5 out of the 6 Mountain West schools with a positive toxic rating are bowl eligible with only UNLV and their +10 rating not gaining the prerequisite 6 (and sometimes 5 now) wins. New Mexico and Colorado State are somehow bowl eligible with both schools checking in with a -6 rating. A big reason for this may be strength of schedule, according to Massey Rankings the Rams had a strength of schedule of 117 and the Lobos came in at 129th.
In terms of the Cowboys they checked in with a -23 rating ahead of only lowly Hawaii who was an amazing -64 for the season. The Pokes were negative in turnover margin (-11), rushing explosive plays (-7) and passing explosive plays (-5) for their total -23 rating. Wyoming was on the down side of the differential this season but they will hope to improve their turnover and big play numbers next season to get into that mushy middle where other tangibles (strength of schedule, luck and acts of God) come into play that can see a team out perform their toxic differential in terms of wins and losses.
In general, the toxic differential did a great job of rankings a team’s strength this season. The differential accurately aligned with 8 out of 12 schools finishes in the actual MW division standings this season with only 2 schools in each division flip flopping. What are your thoughts on this year’s toxic standings?