First look at Holy War or: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics

Well the statistics were right about that pesky TCU game, anyway! So, who's to say they won't at least paint a better picture about the Holy War? Especially when you consider the team that generally leads in the most categories (Utah last year, BYU in '07 and '06) generally wins the game. 

What we do know is that the Cougars probably have a better offense than Utah. Maybe that changes a bit if you factor in Jordan Wynn (after all, the Utes' offense is averaging 37 points and 411 yards per game since he became the starter), but I don't think the game sample is large enough to do that. 

On defense, though, Utah certainly is better there. Will that be enough to offset BYU's advantages on offense? Who the hell knows.

Anyway, the breakdown is after the jump...

Utah BYU Edge
Passing Offense
#54 NCAA
221.9 YPG
#9 NCAA
303.0 YPG
Rushing Offense
#41 NCAA
176.0 YPG
#57 NCAA
149.7 YPG
Total Offense
#51 NCAA
397.9 YPG
#10 NCAA
452.7 YPG
Scoring Offense
#41 NCAA
29.8 PPG
#12 NCAA
35.5 YPG
Rush Defense
#61 NCAA
142.3 YPG
#28 NCAA
113.4 YPG
Pass Defense
#14 NCAA
176.4 YPG
#64 NCAA
220.7 YPG
Total Defense
#23 NCAA
318.6 YPG
#37 NCAA
334.1 YPG
Scoring Defense
#22 NCAA
19.2 PPG
#35 NCAA
21.5 PPG
Fumbles Recovered
#83 NCAA
7
#68 NCAA
8
EVEN
Fumbles Lost
#83 NCAA
11
#39 NCAA
8
Interceptions Thrown
#29 NCAA
7
#87 NCAA
14
Passes Intercepted
#13 NCAA
15
#37 NCAA
12
Turnovers Lost
#42 NCAA
18
#81 NCAA
22
Turnovers Gained
#34 NCAA
22
#48 NCAA
20
Passing Efficiency
#39 NCAA
60.99
#2 NCAA
70.31
Pass Efficiency Defense
#10 NCAA
51.37
#59 NCAA
61.06
Fewest Penalties Per Game
#105 NCAA
84
#86 NCAA
77
Sacks Allowed
#31 NCAA
15
#44 NCAA
17
Sacks
#55 NCAA
22
#55 NCAA
22
EVEN
Third Down Conversion Percentage
#51 NCAA
40.91
#1 NCAA
58.39
Third Down Defense
#8 NCAA
30.67
#82 NCAA
40.91
Fourth Down Conversion Percentage
#112 NCAA
23.08
#100 NCAA
33.33
Fourth Down Defense
#21 NCAA
36.84
#99 NCAA
63.16
Red Zone Offense
#79 NCAA
0.79
#27 NCAA
0.87
Red Zone Defense
#24 NCAA
0.76%
#39 NCAA
0.78
Special Teams
Punting
Field Goals
Kickoff Returns
Punt Returns

Like I thought, BYU's offense is better than Utah's - by a wide margin. The only category the Utes best the Cougars in is run offense and that, unfortunately, is their strongest point on defense.

On the flip-side, however, the Utes' best strength on defense is their pass defense, which just happens to be BYU's best bet on the offensive end. How's that for a nice twist?

Of course, like I mentioned earlier, does Utah gain more from their defense than the Cougars do from their offense? Statistically, I think they do. 

If you recall last year's game, the BYU downfall started with Max Hall's interceptions. It appears they're not better this year, ranking 87th nationally in interceptions thrown. Utah is also 13th in passes intercepted - potentially the biggest statistic heading into this year's Holy War. 

Beyond that, overall, the Utes do appear to be the better team. In the major categories listed, Utah leads in 13 to BYU's 11. That doesn't sound like a dramatic difference, but in a game like this, it could prove to mean a lot. 

To further what I mean, I did a more simple breakdown of the TCU game and Utah led in no categories, while only managing to pull even in four. 

Ultimately, this game is going to come down to the Ute defense. I don't really think they will have too much problem moving the ball on the Cougars and if the defense, specifically the run defense, steps up, they should win.

But that might be the biggest concern entering Saturday's rivalry game. While I said BYU's offensive strength is their passing game, you can't overlook their ground game either.

I am concerned about this because Utah  ranks 61st nationally in run defense. If the Cougars are going to win, it will be by exploiting potentially the weakest aspect of the Ute D. 

If you remember last year, Utah pretty much let BYU have their ground game. For whatever reason, the Cougars were set in passing, even though they were moving the ball far easier on the ground. Last season's Utes ranked in the top-ten in run defense. Quite a bit of difference.

Obviously, though, Utah's 2008 team was generally better statistically than this year's squad. But what's the difference between the numbers from 2008 and today? 

To get a better idea of how serious we should take these statistics, the Utes bested BYU in the following categories: 

 

  • Rushing Offense
  • Rushing Defense
  • Passing Defense
  • Total Defense
  • Scoring Defense
  • Passes Intercepted
  • Pass Efficiency Defense
  • Interceptions Thrown
  • Fumbles Lost
  • Turnovers Lost
  • Turnovers Gained
  • Sacks
  • First Down Defense
  • Third Down Defense
  • Fourth Down Defense
  • Red Zone Defense
  • Redzone Offense
BYU led in:
  • Passing Offense
  • Total Offense
  • Scoring Offense
  • Pass Efficiency
  • Sacks Allowed
  • First Down Offense
  • Third Down Conversion Percentage
  • Fourth Down Conversion Percentage
  • Fumbles Recovered
So, the Utes led in 17 categories compared to 13 this year. Not bad. The difference seems to come on offense, which isn't a surprise. Which means, like last year, Utah enters the game statistically better than BYU.

 

Does that mean a Utah victory? You tell me.

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