As a reminder, we used:
- 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
With a mean Yards Per Stop of 50.16, the Bruins were in the 26-50 ranking tier—good but not great. The first thing that jumps out is just how impressive of an offensive performance the Arizona State game was. Against a defense that eventually became pretty solid, UCLA was nearly unstoppable. The Washington game was also impressive, with the Bruins consistently able to move the ball against a good Husky defense. UCLA’s two worst efforts bookended the regular season, with the anemic offense getting bailed out by UVA turnovers in game 1 but having no such luck against Stanford in the final game. Interestingly, the perceived end-of-year jump doesn’t really show up here, with the Washington game the only one where the offense showed itself to be clearly superior to the early and mid-season offense.
The Oregon game looks much more disappointing here, with that being the Bruins’ third worst performance. Afterwards, however, we do in fact see an improvement in the latter half of the season (Stanford game excepted). While Cal and Colorado are bad defenses, the offense at least performed well enough to get its second and third best raw performances in those games, and both the Washington and Southern Cal games also saw multiple big plays by the Bruins. Also: WOW that ASU game was great.
UCLA was pretty inconsistent at scoring throughout the season, though it does seem that the team improved slightly over the back half of the schedule. One of the most surprising data points here is that the offense actually did a worse job of scoring than it did in the Utah game five different times, winning three of those games. Going against a pretty bad Utah offense, that game was probably not the offense’s fault (besides the killer pick six). This was the offense’s worst performance in the Oregon game, scoring fewer points per drive than it did in even the Arizona or Stanford games. More on that below.
It seems pretty clear to us that playing Oregon makes teams do weird things with their scoring decisions. The mediocre Duck defense is second in the league in Points Allowed Per Trip Inside the 40, despite its next best ranking in the stats we follow being seventh. Teams need to reevaluate the way they play offense against Oregon. The Bruins were relatively inconsistent on PPTI40, never putting together more than two standout performances in a row. With that said, UCLA’s mean of 4.87 points is Top 25-level, but the Bruins should strive for more consistency when they hit scoring position.
Take out the two horrific performances against Oregon and Stanford, and the defense was pretty darn consistent. It wasn’t good enough to be a top level team, with not enough performances in the 20 and 30 Yards Allowed Per Stop range that denote an elite defense, but its performances tended to cluster around the low 40 Yards Per Stop, which makes the 100+ Yards Allowed Per Stop against Stanford and Oregon all the more jarring. Stanford aside, there does seem to have been an improvement in the defense’s numbers after the Oregon game.
Here we begin to see some more improvement over the year (besides, of course, the Stanford game), with a good performance against the good Cal offense, an incredible shutdown performance against the good Arizona offense, and a great performance against the very good Southern Cal offense. Stanford actually averaging more yards per play against the Bruins than Oregon did shows how poor a job UCLA did of limiting explosive plays against a Cardinal team that was missing its biggest threat.
The UCLA defense did its best work at limiting points against the potent Arizona and Southern Cal offenses, who ranked second and fourth in the league in Points Per Drive. However, the Bruins allowed over two points per drive in seven of the games, which led to their mediocre 2.05 Points Allowed Per Drive. Part of this may be due to the big average starting field position deficits the team experienced in the middle of the year, but whatever it is UCLA needs to allow at least fewer than 2 points per possession to really be a good defense.
Stanford had been the worst team in the league at taking advantage of scoring opportunities, but their 31 points in 5 trips inside the 40 actually allowed them to leapfrog Utah on the last day of the season. Speaking of which, over 4.5 PPTI40 allowed against the Utes isn’t great either. Overall, this was the defense’s worst performance out of the stats we track, finishing eighth in the league despite shutdown performances against UVA, Arizona, and Southern Cal.
This looks like the statistical profile of an inconsistent team that just was not quite ready for prime time. We didn’t quite find as dramatic of a late season improvement as we might have expected (even excluding the Stanford game), and overall the team’s good-not-great status seems backed up by this data.
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