UCLA Football Stats Preview: Part 2

Sep. 1 -- We analyze a few key factors that could impact UCLA's performance this year...

When last we left off, we were giving an overview of the stats we’re going to look at this year. Today, we’re going to take a look at the statistical basis of a few intriguing storylines going into the season.

Quarterback Change

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have probably seen one of the many analyses that show just how few True Freshman quarterbacks have very successful seasons. The list is basically Terrelle Pryor, Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III, Braxton Miller, Teddy Bridgewater and Jamelle Holieway (if you want to be hopeful, note that those were all very highly recruited quarterbacks like Josh Rosen). We wanted to take a look at another factor caused by the quarterback change: the switch from a dual-threat to more pocket-oriented quarterback. To do so, we looked for all instances over the past five seasons of a Power Five team keeping the same offensive coaching staff while moving from a dual-threat quarterback one year to a pocket-oriented quarterback the next. Here is what we found:

QB Type Switch

First we have a couple of disclaimers. This is an incredibly small sample size—we could only find six instances that met our criteria out of 150 or so total qb changes. If you can think of any that we missed we’d love to hear from you on the message board. The fact that this is such a small sample size says something in and of itself—coaching staffs that are comfortable with dual threat quarterbacks very rarely will go back to pocket-oriented passers. The coaching staffs on this list are among the most-celebrated in America, so it takes a lot of self-confidence to allow a completely different kind of player run your offense.

Another issue: the quarterback changes that we came up with off the top of our head came from generational talents—Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson (the only one of the list to not win the Heisman, but he is the one with a Super Bowl ring), and thus our sample is probably skewed towards the departing dual-threat quarterbacks because we simply had heard of these guys(though we really did spend a fair amount of time on cfbstats.com and the Scout.com recruiting database trying to unearth other switches).

Now, another argument could be that of course the numbers dipped in the second year—it’s pretty much inevitable to have that happen going from a veteran quarterback to a new player. While that is true, UCLA happens to be transitioning from a three year starter to a first year starter, so this data is relevant when we forecast the Bruin offense this season.

The data shows us that the teams we captured saw an average drop of overall Yards Per Play by 11%, Yards Per Rush by 10%, and Yards Per Pass by 13% with a switch to a pocket-oriented quarterback. Before you start writing off the UCLA offense this season, however, we note that of the six teams, four saw dips in their offensive performance but two actually saw slight upticks in the overall offensive performance.

Those first four quarterbacks, again, are Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson—three Heisman winners and a senior transfer who in one year became his school’s best all time quarterback. Three were first round draft picks and the fourth has probably had the most successful NFL career of the group. The two teams whose performance went up weren’t exactly replacing stiffs; Collin Klein was a Heisman finalist and Everett Golson had just led Notre Dame to a 12-1 season. However, neither player was quite the generational talent that the other four on our list were—they were simply very good rather than all-time greats. As much as we love Brett Hundley and think that he is easily one of the top five Bruin quarterbacks of all time, the Green Bay Fifth Rounder seems to have more in common with Klein and Golson than Manziel, Newton, Griffin, and Wilson.

Replacing Non-Generational Talents

The chart shows that Kansas State and Notre Dame were able to slightly improve their total offenses thanks to a nearly 50% increase in Yards Per Pass overcoming the 7% loss of Yards Per Rush. As we discussed earlier, the tiny sample size we’re working with makes us reticent to make any grand pronouncements, but there is at least some precedent for a team switching from a very good dual-threat quarterback to a pocket-oriented quarterback without a drop in performance.

Wide Receiver Blocking

Most successful offenses require wide receivers to not only catch passes, but also block opponents on plays where the receiver is not the primary target. We decided to try to find out just how much Pac 12 teams value blocking in their receiver corps. To do so, we took the projected top five non-Tight End non-RB pass catchers from every Pac 12 team and measured their approximate Body Surface Areas using the Mosteller Formula. We did this because we figured that, on average, a bigger receiver is a better blocker, and Body Surface Area gave us a quick way to compare the metabolic mass of receivers. Here are the results:

Receiver BSA

With a mean conference BSA among receivers of 2.11 square meters and a standard deviation of 0.05 square meters, Stanford stands tall (literally and figuratively), nearly two standard deviations above the mean. This shows that it isn’t just the extra offensive linemen and tight ends who provide the Cardinal their bulk and blocking ability, but a team-wide commitment to being bigger and stronger than their opponents. The Bruins come in second, just on the edge of being one standard deviation above the mean. This shows that, while UCLA is not Stanford in its complete commitment to bulk, it still very much prizes size and blocking ability in its receivers.

Arizona State falls just behind UCLA, and then we have a noticeable dropoff to the rest of the league. It is interesting that, despite Utah’s identity as Baby Stanford, their receivers have a very average BSA. This is perhaps the result of being one of the toughest places to recruit in the conference. The bottom two teams by receiver BSA are Wazzu and Colorado. The Cougars are one standard deviation below the mean, while the Buffaloes are an astounding two standard deviations below the mean. These two recruiting lightweights may still require their receivers to block, but they must do so at a size disadvantage.

Ranking the Games

There will be 91 regular season games featuring at least one Pac-12 team this year .That is a lot of games, and we do not expect even the most degenerate football fan to watch them all. To help you properly decide which games to spend your time watching (besides the Bruin games, obviously), we are going to rank every single one of those games by week. To do so, we are going to look at the Massey Composite rankings we used last year (currently consisting of 39 different ratings) and give each game a score based on the mean ratings of the two teams. Here we go:

Week One

Each FBS team has 127 potential in-division opponents. Somehow, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State were unable to find any one of the 127 for a game this week. They should be ashamed of themselves and deserve to be heaped with scorn and mockery.

Tied for last place: Cal-Grambling, Oregon-Eastern Washington, Oregon State-Weber State, Washington State-Portland State.

8. Colorado-Hawaii

7. UTSA-Arizona

6. Arkansas State-Southern Cal

5. Stanford-Northwestern

4. Utah-Michigan

3. UCLA-UVA

2. Washington-Boise State

1. Arizona State-Texas A&M

Week Two

Each FBS team has 127 potential in-division opponents. Somehow, Washington and Arizona State were unable to find any one of the 127 for a game this week. Tough week one games are no excuse for not being able to find anybody in FBS to play in week two—they should be ashamed of themselves and deserve to be heaped with scorn and mockery.

Tied for last place: Arizona State-Cal Poly and Washington-Sacramento State

10. Colorado-UMass

9. Washington State-Rutgers

8. Southern Cal-Idaho

7. UCLA-UNLV

6. Cal-San Diego State

5. Oregon State-Michigan

4. Arizona-Nevada

3. Utah-Utah State

2. Stanford-UCF

1. Oregon-Michigan State

Week Three

Arizona plays Northern Arizona this week, but there is an actual honest-to-goodness law in the state of Arizona that mandates one of Arizona or Arizona State to play NAU every year, so heap derision on the Arizona lawmakers.

11. Arizona-Northern Arizona

10. Washington State-Wyoming

9. Oregon State-San Jose State

8. Colorado-Colorado State

7. Oregon-Georgia State

6. Arizona State-New Mexico

5. Utah-Fresno State

4. Cal-Texas

3. Washington-Utah State

2. UCLA-BYU

1. Stanford-Southern Cal

Week Four

Each FBS team has 127 potential in-division opponents. Somehow, Colorado was unable to find any one of the 127 for a game this week. They were given the gift of extra college football thanks to the Hawaii rule, and blew it all on Nicholls State. The Buffaloes should be ashamed of themselves and deserve to be heaped with scorn and mockery.

6. Colorado-Nicholls State

5. Cal-Washington

4. Oregon State-Stanford

3. UCLA-Arizona

2. Utah-Oregon

1. Southern Cal-Arizona State

Week Five

4. Washington State-Cal

3. Colorado-Oregon

2. Stanford-Arizona

1. UCLA-Arizona State

Week Six

5. Colorado-Arizona State

4. Oregon State-Arizona

3. Cal-Utah

2. Washington State-Oregon

1. Washington-Southern Cal

Week Seven

6. Oregon State-Washington State

5. Colorado-Arizona

3 (Tie). Oregon-Washington

3 (Tie). Arizona State-Utah

2. Southern Cal-Notre Dame

1. UCLA-Stanford

Week Eight

5. Oregon State-Colorado

4. Washington State-Arizona

3. UCLA-Cal

2. Washington-Stanford

1. Utah-Southern Cal

Week Nine

6. Oregon State-Utah

5. UCLA-Colorado

4. Washington State-Stanford

3. Cal-Southern Cal

2. Arizona-Washington

1. Oregon-Arizona State

Week Ten

6. Colorado-Stanford

5. Washington State-Arizona State

4. UCLA-Oregon State

3. Utah-Washington

2. Cal-Oregon

1. Arizona-Southern Cal

Week Eleven

6. Oregon State-Cal

5. Colorado-Southern Cal

4. UCLA-Washington State

3. Washington-Arizona State

2. Arizona-Utah

1. Oregon-Stanford

Week Twelve

6. Colorado-Washington State

5. Oregon State-Washington

4. Cal-Stanford

3. Arizona-Arizona State

2. UCLA-Utah

1. Oregon-Southern Cal

Week Thirteen

6. Washington State-Washington

5. Colorado-Utah

4. Oregon State-Oregon

3. Cal-Arizona State

2. Stanford-Notre Dame

1. UCLA-Southern Cal

Later this week: a preview of Game 1: Virginia.

Questions? Comments? Meet us on the Premium Football Forum or tweet us @Bruinalytics.

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