With that disappointment out of the way, we can finally focus on a UCLA-Oregon game that, had Ka’imi Fairbairn’s kick gone through the uprights last week, would have fallen squarely in the “nice to have but not 100% necessary” realm for the Bruins. Bizarrely, while last week’s UCLA and Oregon losses sent College GameDay to Starkville and made the game less glamorous on a national scale, the game has actually become more important with regards to the Pac-12 championship. It still isn’t quite a must-win in the division race (especially with no home field advantage in the conference championship game this season), but the loser will probably have to win out to make it to Levi Stadium.
As always, we use:
- 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
That offense is really really good, even despite the key injuries and the loss to Arizona. The Ducks are first in the league in Yards Per Stop, Points Per Drive, and Points Per Trip Inside the 40, and they trail only Arizona State by 0.1 yards in Yards Per Play. Oregon is nearly two standard deviations above the Pac-12 mean in Yards Per Stop and Points Per Drive, meaning they’ve done incredibly (and possibly unsustainably) well at being efficient and scoring. They haven’t been lapping the field quite as well on explosiveness and taking advantage of scoring opportunities, but they’re still doing each of those at an elite level so far this year.
There are some chinks in the armor, though. Last week, Oregon played Arizona, and it just so happens that the Arizona defense’s numbers are very close to those of the UCLA defense. They’re a little worse, but Arizona has faced more good offenses than UCLA has so far this year. We’re going to take Arizona’s defense as a comparison and look at how Oregon fared in that game.
They will have that chance because the Oregon defense hasn’t been close to as good as it had been in recent years. Their numbers might be slightly deflated from playing two very good offenses in Arizona and Washington State (though we question just how good Washington State’s offense really is), but it’s not like the numbers show a team just on the cusp of being good—they’re pretty uniformly mediocre-to-terrible.
In a good sign for the efficiency-craving UCLA offense, Oregon has been worst at Yards Per Stop, playing at a triple digit ranking level. The Ducks have been slightly better at Yards Allowed Per Play and Points Allowed Per Drive, but not nearly good enough that anybody could consider this defense solid. Near the midway point of the season, we think we can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that this is not a good defense. The Bruins have an opportunity to score a lot of points, and it is up to Brett Hundley and the UCLA offense to turn the page and realize that they are facing a team whose statistical profile resembles Arizona State far more than it does Utah.
The Massey College Football Ranking Composite, taking 108 different rating systems into account, has UCLA as the #11 team in college football (down 4 slots from last week), while Oregon is #12. The Bruins’ rankings range from #2 to #43 with a standard deviation of 8.4 that actually got higher than last week, as ratings systems struggled to make sense of the Bruins’ loss to Utah. The Ducks’ rankings range from #4 to #62, with a standard deviation of 7.9. Both teams are ranked ahead of Arizona, who lurks at #14.
Using a Simple Ratings System (solid descriptive article here), we see the following: Using Footballperspective.com’s numbers, UCLA has a SRS of 58.5 while Oregon has an SRS of 54.3, meaning that when we take +3 for home field into account, Football Perspective predicts a 7 point Bruin win. Using Sports-Reference.com’s numbers, UCLA has an SRS of 18.5 while Oregon has an SRS of 14.9, meaning that Sports Reference predicts a six point UCLA win.
These numbers should be a salve for wounded Bruin psyches. For the first time in some time, the Bruins seem to match up well against reasonably full-strength Oregon in this huge matchup. Last week’s loss to a team with elite defense and special teams unit has basically no bearing on this game against an elite offense. Get to your seats early—there will be points. And hopefully they don’t screw up the video camera during the team’s walk from the locker room to the field like last week.
Questions? Comments? Conspiracy theories that Mark Helfrich is actually a sentient Lego man commissioned by Phil Knight? Meet us on the Premium Football Forum or tweet us @Bruinalytics.