The Wyoming Cowboys are 7-2 and undefeated at 5-0 in the Mountain West Conference as they enter the home stretch of the 2016 football season. A few weeks back we calculated the toxic differential heading into the Cowboys bye week, let’s see what has changed in the Mountain West now that conference play is in full swing.

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 ten weeks with stats courtesy of our friends at


2016 Mountain West toxic standings through ten weeks.


  • Wyoming is a well balanced team that has shown remarkable improvement in 2016 after posting a -23 toxic differential in 2015.
  • The pass defense is still a concern for Wyoming and their -11 pass differential is third worse in the conference. Clean the pass defense up and Wyoming would have a rating in the mid to high twenties.
  • Since the toxic differential was born out of the NFL its application to college football does have some outliers. Run heavy option offenses like Air Force and New Mexico post big differential numbers but are not particularly good.
  • The West Division of the Mountain West is even worse than last year with four schools posting negative numbers.