Mitch Weholt /

Is this the most important defensive stat for Cougs in 2017?

SOME OF THE STATISTICS from Washington State’s 2016 campaign don’t always match up with recollections of the season. Take the opponent’s third-down conversion rate against the Cougar defense.

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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