Game Week: Arizona Statistical Analysis

OCT. 31 -- Take a look at our statistical preview of the Arizona Wildcats, who'll take on UCLA tomorrow evening at the Rose Bowl...

Forget Johnathan Franklin setting the career rushing record in front of an adoring crowd. Forget the Myles Jack package emerging to make an entire defense look under-evolved. Forget 66-10. Suddenly, Arizona is not just a worn down speed bump to thunder over on the way to more important games—the Cats are for real. The Bruins were able to win the first two games of their Personal Pac-12 Championship Tournament despite middling efforts; they will need to play much better if they hope to escape Round 3.

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
Here is how the Wildcats stack up so far this season:



If we had to compare them to one team the Bruins have faced this season, Arizona is the rich man’s Cal. All of their offensive numbers besides Points Per Trip Inside the 40 are superior to the Bears’ numbers, and their defense is significantly better than Cal’s (not exactly tough to do, but still).

Offense

As we enter the stretch run, this is the second best offense in the league behind Oregon. The Wildcats haven’t had the toughest strength of schedule, with the just-ok Southern Cal and Oregon defenses being their toughest opponents, but they have performed fantastically well against that schedule. They have shown absolutely elite level explosiveness and very good efficiency—the only chink in the armor right now is a mediocre Points Per Trip Inside the 40 number.

This will be the improving UCLA defense’s toughest test for the rest of the regular season. They must build on their last two performances and hold the Wildcats well beneath their season average numbers to give the Bruin offense a chance to win.

Defense

This is the worst defense the Bruins will face for the rest of the year. The Wildcats have played a relatively tough slate of offenses and are coming off a very good performance against a Washington State offense that ranks very close to UCLA in most stats, but overall they haven’t been able to shut teams down. The Arizona defense is better, however, than the terrible Cal and Colorado defenses that the Bruins were maddeningly unable to vaporize over the past two weeks. The Wildcats are solidly in the mediocre 51-100 ranking range across the board, and are 10th in the conference in Points Allowed Inside the 40.

This is the UCLA offense’s last chance to have a clean performance before the competition ramps up considerably against Washington (third best defense in the conference behind Stanford and Utah), Southern Cal (fifth best), and Stanford (best in the conference and probably Top-3 nationally). If the Bruins want to advance to the next round, the offense needs to play better than it has the previous two weeks.

General

One week after finally winning both the field position and turnover battles for the first time since the Arizona State game, the Bruins face an Arizona team that has a very good average starting field position differential and an ok turnover margin. In a game that looks to be incredibly tight, turnovers could be the difference. This would be a great time for the Bruins to force their first turnover(s?) at home of 2014.

The Computers

The Massey College Football Ranking Composite, taking 104 different rating systems into account, has UCLA as the #23 team in college football (down 4 slots from last week, the second straight week the Bruins rightly fell after a win), while Arizona is #19. The Bruins’ rankings range from #8 to #40 with a standard deviation of 6.63. The Wildcats’ rankings range from #3 to #46, with a standard deviation of 7.39 (the second highest standard deviation among the Top 20, showing a fair amount of uncertainty).

Using a Simple Ratings System (solid descriptive article here), we see the following: Using Footballperspective.com’s numbers, UCLA has a SRS of 51.3 while Arizona has an SRS of 50.9, meaning that when we take +3 for home field into account, Football Perspective predicts a 3 point Bruin win. Using Sports-Reference.com’s numbers, UCLA has an SRS of 12.40 while Arizona has an SRS of 12.39 (We weren’t kidding when we said it looks like it’s going to be a really close game), meaning that Sports Reference predicts a 3 point UCLA win.

This game is shaping up to be incredibly close. With what should be a good homecoming crowd and the debut of the LA Steel jerseys, the atmosphere should be electric. In order to win, the Bruins must take care of the football, continue to improve on defense, and play their best offensive game since Arizona State. See you under the lights.

Questions? Comments? Obnoxious Arizona basketball fan stories? Meet us on the Premium Football Forum or tweet us @Bruinalytics.

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