Game Week: Utah Statistical Analysis

OCT. 3 -- Utah brings a statistically impressive defensive squad into the Rose Bowl on Saturday...

The Bruins checked the first big box of the season last week with a dominating win over Pac-12 South rivals Arizona State, but now comes another game worth two in the standings against a Utah team that looked like a division title challenger through their first three games before looking bedraggled and miserable in a loss to Washington State.

As always, we are using:

  • Yards Per Stop to measure efficiency
  • Yards Per Play to measure explosiveness
  • Points Per Drive to measure scoring
  • Points Per Trip Inside the 40 to measure drive finishing
  • Field Position Margin to measure field position
  • Turnover Margin to measure turnovers
Here is how the Utes stack up so far this season:

They may not run the same stuff and their numbers may have been inflated a bit against a Michigan team suffering the curse of losing Al Borges, but Utah’s statistical profile kind of looks like Baby Stanford.

The offense has been just horrid—stuck in the triple digit ranking level for three out of the four stats we track and on the low end of mediocre for the other one. Taking a quick peek at their opponents, Fresno State, Michigan, and Washington State (remember: our numbers don’t include games against FCS opponents like the Utes’ win over Idaho State) aren’t exactly Michigan State and Stanford, so putting up bad numbers like this has to be pretty worrisome for an offense that actually does seem to have a fair amount of playmakers.

Remember that 24-7 lead Utah took into the half against Washington State? Even then, the Utah offense scored just one touchdown, a 76 yard run by Devontae Booker, needing a pick 6 and a punt return for a touchdown to create the halftime margin. Overall this season, Utah has been inefficient, not explosive, and wasteful of scoring chances on offense.

The defense, by contrast, has been fantastic. Fresno State and Michigan are bad, but the Utes dominated those bad offenses just like a good defense should, and even the Washington State game wasn’t a particularly poor defensive effort. As of right now, Utah is second in the league to Stanford in every statistical category but Points Allowed Per Trip Inside the 40, where they are tied with the Cardinal for first (in twice the opportunities). They are a Top Ten caliber defense across all the stats we follow, and will be the biggest test for the Bruin offense to date.

Speaking of Baby Stanford, the Utes are also fantastic at playing the field position game, with a Top Ten level field position margin highlighting their great defense and special teams play thus far. Utah has also done a good job of forcing turnovers while taking care of the ball themselves, with a +5 turnover margin that ranks fourth in the league.

The Computers

The Massey College Football Ranking Composite, taking 94 different rating systems into account, has UCLA as the #7 team in college football (up 2 slots from last week), while Utah is #42. The Bruins’ rankings range from #1 (with 11 different rating systems putting the Bruins first, up from just one system last week) to #43 with a standard deviation of 7.9, the second highest among top ten teams behind Florida State. We predicted last week that the standard deviation would fall and it did—expect it to fall further after this game as the stats come into sharper focus. The Utes’ rankings range from #23 to #87, with a standard deviation of 12.9. Interestingly, their composite ranking is exactly one slot below #41 Arizona State, which took quite a tumble from #18 last week.

Using a Simple Ratings System (solid descriptive article here), we see the following: Using’s numbers, UCLA has a SRS of 58.2 while Utah has an SRS of 49.4, meaning that when we take +3 for home field into account, Football Perspective predicts an 11 point Bruin win. Using’s numbers, UCLA has an SRS of 22.9 while Utah has an SRS of 11.2, meaning that Sports Reference predicts a fourteen point UCLA win.

Utah presents the opposite statistical profile of Arizona State. The Utes are great on defense where the Sun Devils are terrible and Utah is bad on offense, where ASU is very good. It is unfortunate that the Utah loss to Washington State takes a ton of luster off of this game, but it should be interesting to see how the Bruins handle their first truly defense and special teams-oriented opponent of the year.

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