The Wyoming Cowboys are 4-2 and undefeated at 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference as they enter their one and only bye week of the 2016 football season. With that in mind let’s see where the Pokes and other Mountain West schools rank in this year’s toxic differential standings so far.
What is the toxic differential?
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 the defense gives up. Second, take this number and add or subtract the team’s turnover margin to end up with your final toxic differential number.
The toxic 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 number differential with so-so teams somewhere in the mushy middle. Below are the 2016 Mountain West toxic standings through six weeks with stats courtesy of our friends at cfbstats.com.
Good News For Wyoming
Not only is Wyoming improved in the win column (four wins already this season) and with the eye test but the Cowboys have improved greatly in the toxic differential. Last season Wyoming had a west division worst -23 rating and through six games this season the Pokes have a +5 rating.
Wyoming is one of two schools with San Diego State being the other to have a positive turnover and big play margin in the conference so far. The key to this is the positive turnover margin where Wyoming is tied for second in the league with San Diego State at +3 which is four behind Mountain West leading Nevada at +7.
Bad News For Wyoming
Looking at the schedule and the path to bowl eligibility, Wyoming plays just one school with a negative rating so far (Nevada) with all the other remaining opponents with positive differentials. This is mostly due in part to being in the much stronger Mountain Divison by which any metric shows is stronger than the West division which is struggling for the second season in a row.
When looking deeper into the individual numbers even though Wyoming has a positive big play differential the Cowboys do rank last in the Mountain West in opponent explosive passing plays allowing 29 passes of 20 yards or more through six games. This is something Wyoming will have to clean up if they want to continue playing winning football into November.