This comparison takes only conference games into account, as the strength of non-conference schedules varies greatly enough to skew the overall standings.
Washington State allowed Pac-12 opponents in 2016 to convert on third down 43.1 percent of the time, ninth in the Pac-12.
That’s not great. The Cougs would probably need to lop about 10 percentage points off that total to climb into the top 3 in 2017 in the stat. But they are trending in the right direction.
While it may have felt like Alex Grinch’s first season in Pullman was probably a little better when it came to stopping the opponent on third down, it wasn’t: 45.7 percent allowed in 2015.
It’s worth noting here that the Pac-12’s top two rated defenses in 2016, Colorado and Washington, were also t-1 in third down defense in conference play (31.5 percent each).
The Cougars last season were No. 3 in the conference in rushing defense overall, No. 5 in conference. So the improvement mostly needs to come on pass defense.
A different statistic suggest the makings are there.
In Pac-12 play the past two seasons, the Cougar D has ranked second and first in stopping conference opponents on fourth down.
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