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 is a ton of happy blue and green colors on both sides of the ball. Let’s dig in some more.
The offense was explosive, took advantage of scoring opportunities at an elite level, and was fairly efficient. The efficiency metric Yards Per Stop is where the Bruins grade out worst, but they still managed almost 12 Yards Per Stop more than Southern Cal had allowed this year. Also, our garbage time metric is on the forgiving side for the trailing team, and if we would have started garbage time when the Bruins went up 38-14, the Bruins would have had a fantastic 75.60 Yards Per Stop. UCLA gained one full yard per play more than Southern Cal had been giving up, and also scored at a level well above Southern Cal’s average numbers.
We had some questions about the Washington game, as the Husky defense was playing pretty shorthanded, but there are now no caveats when we say that the UCLA offense is suddenly playing at its highest level in years. After the midseason swoon, the Bruin offense now has two straight great performances going into its Senior Day clash against big bad Stanford, possibly the best defense in college football.
We had kind of doubted that the UCLA defense could put up a performance nearly as good as the one against Arizona, yet here we are. This was pretty stunning domination against an offense that had only really been shut down by the Stanford and Utah defenses that have been the class of the Pac-12 (though it looks like the loss of Gionni Paul may have knocked Utah from the ranks of the elite defenses). Southern Cal came into the game averaging 6.2 Yards Per Play, yet the Bruins held them to just 4.1. Southern Cal averaged 58.56 Yards Per Stop, but the Bruins held them to 30.67. Southern Cal averaged 2.79 Points Per Drive and 5.25 Points Per Trip Inside the 40, but the Bruins only allowed 1.18 Points Per Drive and 3.25 PPTI40. Much has been written on the message boards already about Myles Jack and the secondary eliminating Nelson Agholor, but it was more than that—the entire defense crushed the Southern Cal offense in every facet.
After sleepwalking a bit through the second half of the Washington game, the UCLA defense gave a full dominating effort against Southern Cal. Since the Personal Pac-12 Playoff began for the Bruins at Cal, the defense has given one mediocre effort (Washington), two solid efforts (Cal and Colorado), and two dominating efforts (Arizona and Southern Cal). Stanford’s offense is better than Washington’s, so the Bruins must bring the same full-game focus that they brought against the Wildcats and Southern Cal if they want to earn a berth in the Pac-12 Championship game.
The Bruins lost the field position battle for the first time in several games, but not by too much, and that small margin was easily cancelled out by the Bruins’ huge +2.18 margin of Points Scored Per Trip Inside the 40. A return to form by the UCLA kick coverage teams prevented any long gains by the dangerous Southern Cal return units.
One of the ways that an underdog Southern Cal team hoped to win was by winning the turnover battle—Southern Cal had been third in the league in turnover margin—but the Bruins battled their rivals to a draw, with two turnovers for each team. Going against a Stanford team that will probably attempt to replicate the Utah blueprint of beating the Bruins with defense and possession, it would be nice if Brett Hundley would refrain from throwing any more pick sixes.
UCLA is now on the precipice of history. A win against Stanford would end a six game losing streak against the Cardinal, equal the most wins in school history, and give the Bruins another shot against Oregon, this time with the first UCLA conference championship in 16 years on the line (to say nothing of the playoff berth that the Pac-12 champ, regardless of record, deserves). We said it after the Washington game and we’ll say it again: Pressure is a privilege, Bruins.
Questions? Comments? Proposals for the proper method of public shaming for the willfully incompetent Pasadena traffic control unit? Meet us on the Premium Football Forum or tweet us @Bruinalytics.