WSU football: Dispelling sack myths

IN THE RUN-UP to the opener against Rutgers in Seattle, you're going to hear a lot about the Cougar offense and sacks allowed. Alas, much of what you'll hear will be incomplete.

Washington State allowed 32 sacks last season, a major improvement over the 57 surrendered in Mike Leach's first year. But the Cougs are replacing three o-line starters and so the question on if that number will go up again is being asked.

But looking only at the number of sacks is like making a pie with half the required ingredients.

You have to look at the number of pass attempts to put it into proper context.

Washington State attempted 756 passes last season. That works out to WSU allowing one sack per 23.6 pass attempts.

That was a better ratio than put forth by Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and USC.

Indeed, it was the second-best in the conference behind Oregon State.

That brings up two other points: the first being that a team clearly doesn't have to dominate the sacks allowed category to have a good season. Secondly, as long as you win, any statistical shortcomings fade into the background. How much have you heard this offseason about UCLA and ASU's sack issues?

ASU surrendered more sacks (41) than WSU despite far fewer pass attempts (494). That works out to a sack per every 12 pass attempts. But ASU won 10 games last year and played in the Pac-12 title game. UCLA was even worse, giving up 36 sacks on 391 attempts (10.8). But the Bruins also won 10 games last year.

As for how many sacks the Cougs will allow in 2014, there's room to argue that number will go down, not up.

Connor Halliday is a senior, his receivers are a deep group and more experienced. And although the o-line will be youthful, Clay McGuire told Cougfan.com last month the unit was every bit as good coming out of spring as last year's vintage despite not having nearly the same playing experience.

Pac-12 sacks allowed in 2013
Oregon State 625 attempts, 25 sacks, 25.0 pass attempts per sack
Washington State: 756, 32, 23.6
Oregon 405, 18, 22.5
Arizona: 383, 17, 22.5
Colorado 411, 20, 20.55
Stanford 311, 16, 19.44
Cal 622, 35, 17.8
Utah, 391, 23, 17.0
UW 413, 30, 13.76
ASU 494, 41, 12.0
USC 389, 34, 11.44
UCLA 392, 36, 10.8

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