Photo by Steve Cheng

UCLA vs. Colorado Statistical Analysis

Oct. 30 -- How does UCLA stack up against Colorado from a statistical perspective heading into Saturday's game?

Game 2 of the 2015-16 edition of the UCLA Rose Bowl Championship Playoff Made Necessary by an Early 2 Game Losing Streak brings Colorado to town for Homecoming. The Buffs just won their first conference game of 2015 at Oregon State, and with a stretch run of @UCLA, Stanford, Southern Cal, @Washington State, and @Utah, any further wins will be a big upset. Mike MacIntyre has improved the Buffaloes, so if the Bruins play as lackadaisically as they did in Boulder last year they might be in danger. The Bruins are heavy favorites, as they will be in each of the next three games (barring Washington State beating Stanford and Arizona State in succession). Do the stats bear that out?

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

Ranking Buckets

Colorado Preview

Offense

The Colorado offense isn’t any good, but they aren’t awful and do an ok job of taking advantage of scoring opportunities. They have a pretty solid (for Colorado) success rate of 43.6% (good for 47th in the country according to Football Study Hall), and their Yards Per Stop is mediocre but not horrible. The UCLA defense isn’t great at preventing efficiency, so the Buffaloes may be able to string together a few first downs. As for explosive plays—forget it. 5.0 Yards Per Play is really bad, and that number probably won’t get better against a team that schemes to take away the big play as much as the Bruins do.

The Buffaloes will probably try to run the ball as much as possible, both to keep possessions down (and thus make the score more high variance—though they’ve actually played at a pretty fast tempo this year for some reason) and because their rushing success rate of 46.3% is actually pretty good. Senior bruiser Christian Powell leads Colorado in Yards Per Carry, but he was recruited by the previous coaching staff so MacIntyre has given over 30 more carries to Sophomore jitterbug Phillip Lindsay. Sefo Liufau also runs the ball a lot, and while he isn’t Brett Hundley, he averages a not-bad 4.7 Yards Per Carry when you take away his (20) sacks.

This is a mediocre-to-bad offense, and it would be a big disappointment for the Bruins to give up anything close to the 37 points they leaked last year (31 in regulation and 17 in the 4th quarter).

Defense

The Colorado defense isn’t as bad at any one thing as the Colorado offense is at explosiveness, but it’s still pretty mediocre. The best thing they do is prevent teams from taking advantage of scoring position, but it’s not like they’re particularly good at that either. They’re in the mediocre Top 100 tier across the board in the Report Card stats, and really threw away any chance at bowl eligibility and getting out of the South Division basement by allowing Arizona to score 38 in a game where the Wildcats pulled their starter for being ineffective. Basically, the Colorado defense is in the same league as the Cal defense (a bit better at preventing efficiency and a bit worse at preventing explosiveness).

The one thing that might help Colorado here is that they are not as horrible at Cal at preventing efficiency, so the Bruins probably won’t be able to march up the field in every drive with nary a big play to show for it like last week. This week, it will be important for the offensive line to both open big holes for whichever running backs are healthy and give enough time for Josh Rosen to uncork long passes to deep receivers.

General

Colorado has a pretty healthy +4 turnover margin, which to be frank is the only way they can really hope to stay in this game. Their Average Starting Field Position margin is terrible, which if nothing else gives us visions of 4.4 40 punter Kenny Walker taking off on 4th and 6 from the 50 or so.

The Computers

The Massey College Football Ranking Composite, taking 112s different rating systems into account, has UCLA as the #21 team in college football, while Colorado is #87. The Bruins’ rankings range from #12 to #61 with a standard deviation of 6.42. This standard deviation is a little lower than most teams near the Bruins’ ranking level, meaning that rating systems are generally in more agreement than average that the Bruins are ranked correctly at 21. Colorado’s rankings range from #58 to #108, with a standard deviation of 7.07. This standard deviation is pretty similar to similarly rated teams.

Using a Simple Ratings System (solid descriptive article here), we see the following: Using Sports-Reference.com’s numbers, UCLA has an SRS of 13.44 while Colorado has an SRS of -3.29, meaning that when we take +3 for home field advantage into account, Sports Reference predicts a 19 point UCLA win.

Your Saturday Schedule

After two Thursday night games, our Optimized Saturday Schedule returns this week. As a reminder, 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:

Morning Slot: We’ve had a bunch of very good early slot matchups in the past few weeks, but this week the pickings are a little slim. Ole Miss at Auburn (average rating: 32.5) is the highest rated game, but we give you permission to ignore the morning games or turn on some European soccer as you make your way to the Rose Bowl.

Noon Slot: It’s the playoffs for the Bruins! This is one of two more chances to see Josh Rosen at home this year! Get to the Rose Bowl.

Early Evening Slot: The 5 pm national game is honestly Notre Dame at Temple, and it is honestly the best-rated game of the day (average rating: 14). What a weird season.

#Pac12AfterDark Slot: The second-best game of the day is Stanford-Washington State (average rating: 28.5). If the Cardinal win this one, they’re almost certainly in the Pac 12 Championship game barring big turnarounds in Eugene or Berkeley.

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


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