OT Caleb Benenoch, photo by Steve Cheng

Pac-12 Statistical Analysis

Oct. 14 -- How does the conference stack up statistically near the midway point of the football season?

Before we get into the stats for Thursday’s pivotal UCLA-Stanford game, we will take a look today at how the conference looks statistically so far. As you might guess, compared to last season, things look…different. To recap, we’re looking at:

  • 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

Ranking Buckets

We do not include the statistics from any FCS games (you’re welcome, Cougs) or garbage time (defined as 35 points in the first half, 28 in the third quarter, and 21 in the fourth quarter).

Just like last year, we’re going to include the Z score along with the raw number. The Z score shows how many standard deviations away from the mean the team is. In plain English, a Z score close to 0 means a team is close to average, while larger numbers denote teams much better (or worse) than average.


Yards Per Stop (Offensive Efficiency)

Yards Per Stop

Just as everybody predicted before the season, Stanford has been far and away the most efficient offense in the league, over 1.6 standard deviations above the mean while Oregon is just hanging on at the bottom edge of the Top 4 in conference. The Bruins are floundering a little, just 0.31 standard deviations above the mean, which is a sign of the shift in personality the UCLA offense has seen this year (more on that in the next segment). Utah, the top conference team in the polls, does look not particularly efficient on offense so far. However, for most of last year the Utes were near rock bottom of most conference offensive stats so being slightly better than average is actually a big jump up.

Yard Per Play (Explosiveness)

Yards Per Play

Even despite getting strangled by Washington last week, Southern Cal’s offense has been the most explosive offense by some margin, nearly two standard deviations above the mean. The Stanford offense, which started the season scoring 6 points at Northwestern, is also over one standard deviation above the mean. The Brett Hundley era was marked by great offensive efficiency but only ok explosiveness. 5 games into the Josh Rosen era, the Bruin offense is just ok at efficiency but actually fairly explosive. It will be interesting to see if this philosophical shift continues throughout the year. The Artist Formerly Known as Oregon is a mediocre 5th in the league, while Utah again probably sees being just below the conference average as a success compared to last year.

Points Per Drive (Scoring Efficiency)


Stanford and Southern Cal are the two top scoring offenses in the league, each over one standard deviation better than the conference mean. The UCLA offense, even despite that poor effort against Arizona State, comes in tied for third. The Utah offense is scoring at a better clip than Oregon, Cal, and Arizona State, and everybody who predicted that before the season please collect your winnings. Washington is 2015’s Utah, planted firmly on the bottom of most offensive stats.

Points Per Trip Inside the 40 (Taking Advantage of Scoring Opportunities)


The Los Angeles schools are the best in the conference at taking advantage of scoring opportunities, even after UCLA had an uncharacteristic little blip in the first three games of the season. The key over the rest of the season will be getting the offense in an opportunity where it can use its proven ability to take advantage of scoring opportunities. This is how great the Stanford offense has been this year—even David Shaw’s play calling can’t drag them any lower than 4th in the league after being consistently awful at taking advantage of scoring opportunities (against everybody but UCLA) last year.


Yards Allowed Per Stop (Preventing Efficiency)


There are no elite defenses in the Pac-12 this year, but UCLA and Washington are the two best defenses in the league at preventing efficiency. This is interesting because given the Bruins’ bend-don’t-break philosophy, we would expect the defense to accept a certain level of efficiency from the opposition. Should the Bruins still be on top of Yards Allowed Per Stop this time next week, we would be very impressed. The Washington defense has been pretty impressive so far this year considering all the talent they lost. Last year’s defensive standouts, Stanford and Utah, are only a little better than average in the conference at preventing efficiency, while Cal, last year’s defensive whipping boy, is perfectly average.

Yards Allowed Per Play (Preventing Explosiveness)


The Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Fabian Moreau season enders were just crushing because this UCLA defense could have been that elite defense that doesn’t really exist in the conference right now if those guys stayed healthy. Ugh. As it is, the Bruin defense have been elite so far at preventing explosiveness (even if they did allow Mike Bercovici to run for a 34 yard touchdown but whatever), while both Washington and Stanford are also over one standard deviation better than average. Just looking at the stats, it appears the Bruins may have to sustain drives to be successful on offense this Thursday on the farm. The Oregon defense of this year is what people used to think the Oregon defense was—well below average in conference and only saved from the basement by Washington State and Oregon State.

Points Allowed Per Drive (Scoring Prevention)


2015 Washington really is 2014 Utah—at the bottom in most offensive stats but near the top on defense. There are again no Pac-12 teams in the Top 10 Tier of our rankings, but the Huskies and the 2015 Utes are over 1 standard deviation better than the conference average at preventing opponents from scoring, while Southern Cal, and UCLA are also doing a pretty good job at preventing points. Oregon…wow. Oregon is worse than Wazzu, Cal, and Colorado, three schools that are not exactly synonymous with defensive competence. Oregon State is probably the worst defense in the league this year so far, nearly 2 standard deviations worse than average.

Points Allowed Per Trip Inside the 40 (Scoring Efficiency Prevention)


The stingy Washington defense doesn’t give up many scoring opportunities, and when they do they are the best in the league at clamping down and preventing points. Southern Cal, Utah, and UCLA are all the next tier below but still pretty good, just around one standard deviation better than the conference average. From there, it’s a pretty big drop off to Washington State and Cal then another drop to the bottom half of the league.


Turnover Margin


The Utah defense is incredibly, probably unsustainably, already at +10 in turnover margin, nearly three standard deviations better than the conference average. Southern Cal and Cal are also enjoying good turnover margins (Cal’s was even better before their disastrous Utah game). Everybody else is clustered closely around the Even turnover margin we would generally expect from the college football population over a large enough sample size.

Field Position Margin


Death, taxes, and Stanford leading the conference in field position margin. Even with this year’s team being much more offense-oriented than past Cardinal teams, they still win the same way—by tilting the field dramatically. The Cardinal are easily in the Top 10 tier of our rankings, and are over 2 standard deviations better than the conference average. UCLA is a clear #2 in the league, over 2/3 of a standard deviation better than the conference average. This is a welcome stat going into the site of possibly the most crushing field position loss of the Mora era, where the Bruins significantly outgained Stanford in the 2012 Pac 12 Championship game but couldn’t quite overcome a 174 yard field position deficit. It would be nice if the Bruins don’t allow Stanford to have such a big field position edge this time around. The rest of the conference is a whole heap of mediocrity, with no other team particularly good at winning the field position battle and only Oregon State really bad at it.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the conference stats for the season so far, we’ll take our usual in-depth look at the Stanford game next.

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

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