The stretch run (did you read our awesome Stretch Run Statsplosion yet? Go do it. We’ll wait.) begins tomorrow in the Rose Bowl, as a resurgent Washington State will try to make a national statement two weeks after just missing their shot against Stanford. It’s Senior Night at the Rose Bowl, and with the primetime LA start and the alternate uniforms, it should be quite the atmosphere.
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
The Pirate has his Cougars offense humming, near the top of the Pac-12 in almost all offensive categories. This will be the best and most balanced (as far as efficiency vs. explosiveness) offense the Bruins have faced since Stanford—the Cougars are 4th in Yards Per Stop in the conference and 5th in Yards Per Play. They are eighth in the entire country with a Success Rate of 49%. Fellow BRO and Friend of the Column bruwinning helped us out with our own success rate analysis, and interestingly there actually isn’t much of a noticeable uptick over the season for the Cougars’ success rate, and great success rate performances against Rutgers and Arizona actually came in close games against bad competition.
Breaking it down by Short/Medium/Long/Very Long Distances to go to get a first down didn’t reveal much either:
This seems to show that the Cougars early season issues weren’t really related to any offensive efficiency issues. In fact, they scored 17 more points against Oregon than they did against Cal with nearly identical and actually slightly worse success rates. Does this bode well for a UCLA defense that generally seems ok to allow efficiency? Potentially, but only if the Bruins are able to keep a lid on what has been a fairly explosive Cougar offense.
This is an average Pac-12 defense, and that’s a good thing for Washington State.
Just as Cal ascended from “tragic” to merely “bad” on defense and is almost certainly going bowling as a result, the Cougars have graduated to being a mediocre defensive team, which is really all they need. They aren’t in our bottom tier in any stats, and are no worse than 7th in the Pac-12 in any of the defensive stats that we track. They’re actually the fourth best defense in the league at preventing points inside the 40, which should be an interesting challenge for the a UCLA offense that has been quite adept at taking advantage of scoring opportunities. Perhaps unsurprisingly given what they go against every day in practice, the defense is better against the pass than the run, 78th in the country in passing success rate allowed but 106th in rushing success rate allowed. Paul Perkins has looked a step slow ever since his long touchdown run against Colorado, but this would be a great time for him to grind out the yards.
The Cougars are not a very good field position team, ranking 10th in the conference. They’re especially bad at pinning opponents deep, ranking 106th in the country in opponents’ average starting field position. They are +1 in turnover margin, and after several years of Armpuntin' Connor Halliday, that must fill Mike Leach with whatever he feels when normal human beings feel “joy.”
The Massey College Football Ranking Composite, taking 115 different rating systems into account, has UCLA as the #25 team in college football, while Washington State is #42. The Bruins’ rankings range from #11 to #47 with a standard deviation of 5.59. This is a fairly low standard deviation among teams with similar ranking levels, meaning that there is pretty good consensus among the different rating systems that the Bruins belong in this slot. The Cougars’ rankings range from #14 to #83, with a standard deviation of 11.72. This standard deviation is a little big compared to teams with similar ranking levels, meaning there is some disagreement on where Washington State belongs.
Using a Simple Ratings System (solid descriptive article here), we see the following: Using Sports-Reference.com’s numbers, UCLA has an SRS of 11.78 while Washington State has an SRS of 4.84, meaning that when we take +3 for home field advantage into account, Sports Reference predicts a 9 point UCLA win.
Using Brian Fremeau’s FEI ratings, FEI predicts a 32-26 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:
Morning Slot: The 9 AM pickings are slim again this week. The best is Ohio State—Illinois (average rating: 24.5), but if you decide to sleep in so you can be fully rested in the evening we won’t blame you.
Noon Slot: Regrettably, Alabama at Mississippi State (average rating: 11) is probably the call in another surprisingly weak timeslot. Hey look, the Crimson Tide are actually playing a competent quarterback!
Early Evening Slot: Allllll the interesting games are late in the day. Memphis—Houston (average rating: 20) is at 4, Oregon—Stanford (average rating: 18) is at 4:30, and Oklahoma—Baylor (average rating: 8.5) is at 5. Could not ask for a better set of games to have on in the tailgate background.
#Pac12AfterDark Slot: Your last chance to watch Josh Rosen at home this season, or if Woods to be believed, Ken Clark and pretty much the entire offensive line at home ever. Be there.
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