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AAC Defensive Analysis Report

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The AAC gets a bad reputation as a no-defense conference. Let’s find out if it’s true.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It is absolutely crazy to believe, but College Football is through the first quarter of the season. While we can focus on basic metrics like total yards and yards per game, some of these results can be skewed depending on the type of opponents your team played. Thus, I wanted to investigate to see if the AAC is really that bad on defense.

Without further ado, here are the key advanced passing statistics.

Immediate Takeaways

  1. UCF, USF, Cincinnati, and Temple appear to be the best pass defenses. Despite the type of team each of these four have faced through this season, I want to bring attention to pass yards per attempt. They are the only teams that allow less than 6 yards per attempt. Those are elite numbers that are on par with Alabama’s 5.55 yards per attempt.
  2. Houston and UConn are on par with each other. I am not entirely shocked that UConn is at the bottom of the league. But who would have guessed Houston is down at the bottom. I know that they played a high-powered offense in Texas Tech. The numbers could be skewed here because no one wants to run against Houston. However, there is no excuse for giving up almost nine yards per attempt. Houston’s pass defense should be a concern because Ed Oliver cannot do everything.
  3. ECU is a top five defense in the league, as of now. They get to the quarterback, as evidence by them getting a sack every 13 passing attempts. In addition, they are allowing under 200 passing yards a game and have played some pretty solid quarterbacks. While they only have played three games, their numbers have been impressive so far. If the defense continues to play this well, ECU has a chance at a bowl game.

Here are the rushing defense advanced statistics.

Immediate takeaways

  1. These rush yards per game can be heavily skewed by types of teams that were played. For example, USF has played three of their four games against teams that have rushed more than they have passed. As you can see from the first column, that appears to be the case with almost every team in this league.
  2. UConn is pretty much terrible on all fronts. They were the worst team when it came to passing defense. Nothing changed when it came to rushing defense as well. This team can’t stop anyone.
  3. Houston’s rush defense is scary. All of the AAC writers here have been saying don’t run the ball at Ed Oliver. Other teams have not received that memo. Houston has a terrifying 2.94 yards per attempt. They have the lowest percentage when it comes to the percentage that opponents rush the ball. Those few times that an opposing team decides to run, Houston appears to stop them right in their tracks.

Is the AAC a good defensive league?

Well, for passing defense we see that there is a clear upper echelon that I mentioned. The biggest positive surprise was ECU being in that upper tier. After that, there is a bottom tier where teams are giving up six to eight yards per attempt and making average looking quarterbacks look great, as evidence by the 100+ passer rating. The biggest disappointment is Houston being one of the worst passing defenses. Overall, the league is mostly average to below average in this area, with a few that are more elite.

As for the rushing defense, we see a lot of skewed numbers. Eight of the 12 teams in the league have seen more teams go the rushing route. Clearly, when teams rush the ball more, teams are going to give up more yards. Really, when it comes to rushing defense, all these teams are pretty decent, except UConn. Houston, however, stands out by giving up less than three yards per attempt! Overall, the average rush defense for the AAC is less than five yards per carry, which I believe is impressive even though it is still very inflated. Chalk the league up as being good, but not great, against the run.

Overall, I do not think we give these AAC defenses enough credit. Sure, the AAC has some bad defensive teams. So does every other league. I have come to the conclusion that the American as a whole appears to be better defensively than they were last year. The only glaringly bad defense I can see is UConn. So let’s stop saying the AAC is a no defense league, but rather just a high octane, offensive, league.

If you disagree, or have any comments to add, please comment below!