Final pregame thoughts: Is Boise State an undisciplined football team?

Penalties are about the only thing that Boise State has done wrong this year, despite a late push from special teams. The Broncos are 111 out of 120 teams in penalties per game. Does that make them an undisciplined team? Or are they just overly aggressive?

To find an answer, I went through the play-by-play for every game that Coach Pete has coached and took notes on each and every penalty. The results and my conclusions are after the jump. Feel free to share your opinion, too. Oh, and if you happen to be worried about Saturday's game against New Mexico State, you can vent on that as well.

Boise State football: Overly aggressive or undisciplined?

Let's start off with the results from my penalty charting experience. All totals were obtained from ESPN's play-by-play data and from cfbstats.com. For a spreadsheet version of my penalty charting, you can download from Google Docs.

Total penalties during Chris Petersen's coaching tenure (2006-2010)

Penalties Games Penalties per game
373 56 6.7

Total personal foul penalties (unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer, unsportsmanlike conduct)

Personal Fouls Games Personal Fouls
per game
59 56 1.1

Unforced errors

Includes false starts, offsides, personal fouls, illegal formation, delay of game, substitution infraction, illegal motion, etc.

Total unforced penalties % of unforced penalties Unforced penalties
per game
210 56 3.8

Penalties by type (2006-2010)

Penalty Total
false start 86
holding 67
pass interference 43
personal foul 32
illegal block 30
offside 26
face mask 16
unsportsmanlike conduct 15
roughing the passer 11
roughing the kicker 8
illegal formation 7
substitution 7
delay of game 5
kick catching interference 4
illegal forward pass 3
illegal motion 3
ineligible receiver downfield 3
intentional grounding 3
12 men on field 1
illegal touching 1
sideline interference 1
unnecessary roughness 1

Boise State penalty ranking by year, nationally

Year Penalties
per game
National Rank
2010 9.0 111
2009 6.2 61
2008 7.2 102
2007 7.1 91
2006 5.8 56

Conclusions?

Here are mine ...

This problem is not isolated to this season

Penalties have been a problem throughout Coach Pete's tenure as head coach. Those who have been fans of the program for awhile most certainly recognize this cycle: Boise State plays a penalty-filled game, the media calls them out on it, they have slightly less egregious penalties the next week, everyone forgets about it, Boise State plays a penalty-filled game and the cycle starts over.

We've already seen this complete cycle once this season ... and we're only three games in.  

There is more to the problem than simply being over aggressive

Assuming that false starts and offsides and illegal formation are not the result of being too aggressive, I think you have to acknowledge that there is more to the penalty problem than being jacked up on college football. Boise State averages nearly three procedure penalties per game. There's something wrong with that.

Penalties may not matter too much in the win-loss column

There is no clear correlation between national penalty ranking and winning. Generally speaking, good teams can get away with being penalty prone. Statistically speaking, if there was a clear correlation, service academies, private schools, and MAC programs would be in BCS games every year. 

National leaders in fewest penalties per game (2006-2010)

Year Team
2010 Eastern Michigan (0-4)
2009 Navy (10-4)
2008 Ball State (12-2)
2007 Navy (8-4)
2006 Northwestern (4-8)

As for the top BCS teams from season to season, this year's Alabama is No. 43. Last year's Alabama was No. 14. And just when you start thinking that mediocre to above average penalty numbers are what's needed to contend at the top of college football, you have 2008 Florida at No. 105.

The correlation just simply isn't there. And Coach Pete understands that.

Coach Chris Petersen has said he wants high physicality and low penalty totals, but he also points out that penalty yardage is not an indicator of success.

"Play aggressive, smart, clean football — that’s the goal right there," he said. "But some things are going to happen when you play that hard."

I would agree that it is not an indicator of success over a large period of time, but at the game-to-game level, it could be a factor. We saw as much in the Virginia Tech game.

Speaking of the Hokies, they are No. 43 in penalties and sit at an unranked 2-2.

WAC officiating could be to blame

Spend some time looking at the national rankings of penalties, and you'll notice a lot of Big Ten teams near the top of those lists. Now, football isn't so different from conference to conference that there should be a notable penalty difference. It has to come back to the refs.

And as we all know, the WAC has some of the worst ones out there. Quit calling so many holding penalties, WAC referees! Or at least if you must keep calling them, take a cue from Ron Cherry and spice things up.


Allow me to bogart some comments

OK, enough penalty talk. Let's get to some reader comments about the NMSU game.

In response to my game preview, joe bob priddy wrote

what boise state can do to win

show up

Touche, my friend.

From Bluesport:

BSU should have had 40 points against Wyoming by half and more second half points but got sloppy. Will we see a sloppy close out during the 3rd & 4th quarters? Or good execution throughout the game for a complete game that shows BSU’s real potential?

A game within a game? I'm intrigued. And that figures to be a rare emotion from me this week.

From the weekly Mikrino poll:

Let's face it Aggie Football is not good football.

Tomorrow's game in a nutshell.

Your turn

Do you think Boise State's penalty problem is due to being undisciplined or overly aggressive? Any hopes or fears for Saturday's matchup with New Mexico State? Share your thoughts in the comments and vote in the poll.

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