Photo by Steve Cheng

How does UNLV stack up against UCLA from a statistical perspective heading into Saturday's game?

Sep. 11 -- How does UNLV stack up against UCLA from a statistical perspective heading into Saturday's game?

San Jose State was around the 115th best team in the nation last year, and UNLV was lucky to stay within 23 points of the Spartans in one of their 11 2014 losses. They were among the worst teams in FBS last year, and have been awful for a long time. However, though it’s incredibly early, last week’s solid performance on the road against the reigning MAC champion Northern Illinois Huskies may presage a season with more than two wins for new head coach Tony Sanchez.

This will not be one of UNLV’s wins.

UNLV’s stats from last season are just awful, but we think that their effort at NIU showed a team that is significantly improved and may provide at least some resistance to the Bruins going into the BYU game. As such, we’re just going to show the stats from the game this past week. It’s a tiny sample size, but it’s all we’ve got for this coaching staff in college.

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 Running Rebels looked last week:

Ranking Buckets

UNLV Preview

We promise, these stats are actually an improvement on last year for UNLV. The Rebel offense put in a pretty solid performance in DeKalb, doing a great job of taking advantage of scoring opportunities and doing an ok job of being efficient. They only managed three plays of 20 yards or more, though they did manage a rather astounding 19 plays between 10 and 19 yards. We know that Tracy and Dave are looking for a completely smothering performance by the defense, but UNLV does seem to have the ability to move the football. For a UCLA defense that has leaned heavily towards bend-don’t-break principles in the Mora era, it will take a real shift in mindset to completely shut down what appears to be a competent UNLV offense.

The Rebel defense…is another story. After a pretty solid first half, they capitulated in the second half, allowing touchdowns on 4 of 6 drives. They only forced 3 three-and-outs and a four-and-out and allowed six plays of at least 20 yards. They allowed even more Yards Per Play to Northern Illinois than Virginia did to the Rosen show and allowed three long touchdown drives of 75 yards or more. If the Bruin defense can force enough quick stops, there is potential for the offense to score a lot of points on Saturday. UCLA has only scored over 60 points twice in the Mora era (66 against Arizona in 2012 and 62 against Arizona State in 2014), but this may be another big-scoring opportunity.

The Computers

The Massey College Football Ranking Composite, taking 52 different rating systems into account, has UCLA as the #12 team in college football, while UNLV is #121. The Bruins’ rankings range from #2 to #35 with a standard deviation of 6.69. The standard deviation rose from last week, probably because ratings systems are blending 2014 and 2015 statistics in different ways. UNLV’s rankings range from #96 to #126, with a standard deviation of 6.65. This standard deviation is about the same as most teams near their ranking level.

While we usually use a Simple Ratings System here, we still don’t have enough data this season to build our ratings. Therefore, using Brian Fremeau’s FEI ratings, FEI predicts a 46-10 Bruin win.

Your Saturday Schedule

Every week we are going to give you the optimal college football Saturday viewing schedule, recommending the games with the highest mean Massey Composite ratings. Here is our recommendation this week:

Early Morning: It’s really hot, so fruit might be a nice refreshing breakfast. Watch College Gameday or the English Premier League, if that’s what you’re into.

Morning Slot: Boy were we right in recommending Stanford-Northwestern last week. This week’s set of morning games is pretty bad, but the best one is Houston at Louisville, best in that time slot with an average rating of 48.5. We won’t be too mad if you flip to Oregon State at Michigan.

Noon Slot: Would it have killed the major networks to move any of this afternoon’s big games to this time slot? The best game in this hour is Notre Dame at Virginia (average rating: 45), where we can get a good view of just how much we should care about last week’s great Bruin performance. Should that game get out of hand early, Minnesota at Colorado State should be a good game between two similarly-rated teams.

Early Evening Slot: The nonconference game of the year for the Pac-12 is Oregon at Michigan State, with an average rating of 5.5. LSU at Mississippi State starts an hour after that game and might be interesting.

#Pac12AfterDark Slot: Bruins. Also maybe keep an eye on Boise State at BYU.

For those of you going to Las Vegas, stay hydrated!

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

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