Pac-12 Stretch Run Stat Analysis

Nov. 17 -- The BRO stat guy goes deep into analyzing and ranking UCLA and the conference...

It is the stretch run of the stretch run, and the Pac-12 South is tantalizingly close to dissolving into the chaos that we can almost guarantee is going to engulf the SEC West. Let’s take a look at some of the overall rankings. We’re sure by now you have looked at the the Committee Rankings and various scenarios, so we are going to focus on the Massey Composite, which is an aggregation of around 100 different ranking systems. In the composite, the Pac-12 teams are not quite getting the same amount of love they are getting from the committee. is #3 (behind and ), is #10, UCLA is #13, is #23, and Southern Cal is #25. Senior Day opponent is ranked #36, just behind the team that every Pac-12 fan should be rooting for to win out. The Bruins’ standard deviation is 7.2, highest of all teams in the top 16. This means that even ten games into the season people still have no idea of how to rank UCLA. The Bruins rank as high as #4 and as low as #43. Before we get into the rest of the league, here is the report card for the UCLA season so far: As always, we use:

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

The team isn’t the dominant force that we had wanted it to be going into the season, but there are encouraging signs. Before the lackluster performance against , the defense had been playing well since the Cal game, including a fantastically dominant performance against the very good Arizona offense. The offense just had possibly its best game of the Mora era, obliterating a solid Washington defense on the road. Having seen the UCLA stats in a vacuum, let’s now put them into context by showing the Pac-12 rankings for all of these stats (Note: these stats are updated through the November 8 games).


Efficiency, measured by Yards Per Stop (“Stop” defined as any non-touchdown non-half-ending drive finish)

Oregon, as you might suspect, is still lapping the field. The Ducks are over 2 standard deviations above the mean (nobody else is one standard deviation above the mean), and are a pretty solid bet to break triple digits in this stat considering their easy final two games. Cal is the only other Pac-12 team with Top-25 level stats, and the Golden Bears are followed by 4 teams in the good-not-great 26-50 tier and 5 teams in the mediocre 51-100 tier. is by far the worst offensive team in the league, and the only team over one standard deviation worse than the mean (though look for Washington to join the Utes if the Huskies are serious about abandoning the as a running back experiment). Interestingly, Arizona State is pretty far down the list here.

Explosiveness, measured by Yards Per Play

Oregon tops this ranking as well (and every other Pac 12 offensive stat. They are over one standard deviation above the conference mean of 6 yards per play, and just generally at a different level. The losses of and Pharaoah Brown will hurt, but this is still the most explosive team in the league by a considerable margin. Arizona State and Southern Cal are both in the Top 25 tier despite each having played both Stanford and Utah already, an impressive achievement. The Bruins join Arizona, Cal, and in the solid 26-50 tier, while Stanford enjoys their highest offensive statistical ranking, 8th in the league and first in the mediocre 51-100 tier. Both Washington and Utah are stuck in the awful >100 tier, over one standard deviation below the mean.

Scoring, measured by Points Per Drive

More Oregon at the top, with the Ducks again well over two standard deviations above the mean. Utah switches places with basement buddies Washington, though neither team is bad enough to warrant the dreaded red background of terribleness. Cal is also pretty good at scoring, which is good because, as we shall see, they are hilariously bad at preventing any type of offense whatsoever.

Drive Finishing, measured by Points Per Trip Inside the 40

The Pac-12 as a whole does very well here, with two teams in the elite tier and four more in the very good tier. And then there is Stanford, exactly two standard deviations beneath the mean. There was a post on the message board a few days ago asking why is so dismissive of : this is why.

If we add up all the rankings without weighting or doing a Strength of Schedule Adjustment, we get the following overall offensive rankings:

If we use Z-scores to normalize the data (though still making no Strength of Schedule Calculation and assuming each statistic is equally important), we get these rankings:


Efficiency Prevention, measured by Yards Allowed Per Stop

It is really insane how bad Stanford’s offense is, because even a mediocre offense would probably have them in contention for the league title due to their awesome defense. Even with their stats taking a dip after the Oregon detonation, the Cardinal are the only defense in the league doing a good job of preventing efficiency, allowing well over one standard deviation fewer Yards Per Stop than the mean. The Bruins have fought themselves into the second tier alongside several South Division rivals. is showing how a real Air Raid defense should look, with the Bears over two standard deviations beneath the mean. The Cal defense is more consistently awful than the Stanford defense is consistently good. Yikes.

Explosiveness Prevention, measured by Yards Allowed Per Play

Yeah, yeah Stanford number one, two standard deviations better than the mean blah blah blah HEY LOOK THE BRUINS ARE TIED FOR SECOND IN THE DANG LEAGUE! With Southern Cal third in the league in Yards Per Play, that sets up an intriguing statistical matchup in the Rose Bowl on November 22. Pac 12 defenses seem to be struggling a lot overall at preventing explosive plays, with three teams in the lowest tier, the most in that tier for any stat.

Preventing Scoring, measured by Points Allowed Per Drive

Southern Cal actually joins Stanford at being over one standard deviation better than the mean here. The Utes, though still in that very good tier, dropped precipitously after the latest edition of Oregon Plays Around for Three Quarters Then Says Meep Meep and the Opponent Falls Off a Cliff. This is the Bruins’ worst showing defensively, though they are at the very top of the mediocre tier. Cal is terrible.

Thwarting Drive Finishing, measured by Points Allowed Inside the 40

The Utes overtake the Cardinal for the top spot here, and considering the two play one another this weekend we should probably expect Utah’s lead to grow. The Bruins are just below the median and mean, which helps explain why every dang turnover from weeks 4-8 seemed to turn into a touchdown. This is the best showing by the Oregon defense—we imagine that teams that play the Ducks are more likely to go for touchdowns when they might have settled for field goals against other opponents, putting those offenses out of their comfort zone. Interestingly, the teams that performed the best against Oregon this season (Arizona, Washington State, and Cal) are aggressive offenses that feel at home playing an Oregon-tempo game. Doing the same easy rankings as we did for the offenses, we rank the Pac-12 defenses thusly:

Using Z-scores, the defenses shake out slightly differently:


Field Position Margin, measured by Average Starting Field Position Minus Opponent’s Average Starting Field Position

This is Arizona State’s highest showing in any of the stats we track, and helps show how the Sun Devils win tough games by tilting the field in their own favor. ASU victims Utah and Stanford are also doing a good job, though we believe that for Stanford to have had a successful season the Cardinal would have probably needed an even better showing. The Bruins are still recovering from huge field position margin deficits against Utah, Oregon, and Cal, and are among seven teams within one standard deviation of the mean (Stanford through UCLA).

Despite a pretty mediocre defense, Oregon sparkles in turnover margin, doing a great job of holding onto the ball and creating takeaways. They are the only team over one standard deviation above the mean. Washington State at the bottom of the list with -10 just reinforces just how insane their 60-59 loss to Cal was— didn’t throw any picks! The Bruins have had a few solid weeks of taking care of the football, though they will need to be on high alert again, as Southern Cal has the third best turnover margin in the league. We now have a much better idea of how each team in the Pac-12 stacks up as we enter the final three weeks of league play. Questions? Comments? Meet us on the Premium Football Forum or tweet us @Bruinalytics.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories