DL Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (Photo by Steve Cheng)

UCLA vs. UNLV Statistical Analysis

Sep. 9 -- What do the stats tell us about UCLA's upcoming game with UNLV?

One week after exposing themselves as the frauds they are/showing the heart that will carry them to the division championship in an overtime loss at Texas A&M, UCLA opens the home season with a scrimmage against UNLV. Last year, the Bruins handled the Running Rebels with ease, though Josh Rosen had a bad game. Given that Johnny Stanton can probably complete a pass of longer than 3 yards (the longest pass of the game last year by Kurt Palandech), there is some intrigue as to whether the Bruins will be able to blow out the Rebels. Last season’s stats give us an idea of what to consider a good performance from the Bruins.

As in previous years and in the Statistical Season Preview, we use the following stats:

  • Yards Per Stop: A measure of efficiency
  • Yards Per Play: A measure of explosiveness
  • Points Per Drive and Points Per Trip Inside the 40: A measure of scoring proficiency
  • Field Position Margin
  • Turnover Margin


The UNLV offense actually had a surprisingly not horrific year last season considering their complete ineptness in the UCLA game. They weren’t good at anything, but they weren’t the worst. We probably shouldn’t expect the same level of domination from the Bruins defense this time around, though if we expect the UCLA defense to be better than it was last season, maybe we should.


The UNLV defense did have a horrific year last season. They allowed opposing teams to be both efficient and explosive, and they were unable to prevent those teams from scoring. As we stated earlier, the relative difficulty that the UCLA offense had with UNLV presaged the Bruins’ later struggles. We are of the opinion that you can’t take much of anything from game 1, but if the offense struggles again against a Running Rebel defense that would have to improve to be bad, it’s time to worry.


UNLV wasn’t a very good return team last year, with their top punt returner averaging fewer than 5 yards per return and their main kick returner averaging just over 20 yards per return. Though Austin Kent was unable to manage any touchbacks against Texas A&M, the UCLA kick coverage team did not let a dangerous Texas A&M return team do much damage, so they should be able to keep the UNLV returners under wraps.

The Computers

The Massey College Football Ranking Composite, taking 58 different rating systems into account, has UCLA as the #41 team in college football, while UNLV is #105. The Bruins’ rankings range from #13 to #90 with a standard deviation of 16.66. This standard deviation is a little higher than most teams with similar ranking levels, meaning there is some disagreement among the different rating systems on where UCLA belongs.  The Running Rebels’ rankings range from #63 to #105, with a standard deviation of 10.69. This standard deviation is about the same as teams with similar ranking levels, meaning there is a fair amount of agreement on where UNLV belongs.

?Using Brian Fremeau’s FEI ratings, FEI predicts a 46-9 UCLA win. That would be nice.

Your Saturday Schedule

As we did last season, 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. This week’s slate is pretty awful, but here are our recommendations anyway:

??Morning Slot: Pitt-Penn State (average rating: 43). Don’t tell Penn State fans that Pitt is probably the better of the teams for this renewal of a once-fun East coast rivalry. There should at least be a fun atmosphere at this game, if not necessarily a high level of play.

??Noon Slot: Alabama-Western Kentucky (average rating: 16). This is the worst noon slate in some time. At least the Crimson Tide should get a little bit of a challenge from their opponents this week. Go Hilltoppers!

??Early Evening Slot: The home opener at the Rose Bowl! Our inaugural time sitting on the shady side—it’s a good thing we lost our voice last week to ease our new neighbors into the new normal.

??#Pac12AfterDark Slot: Honestly, you should probably just stay for the fireworks then get some sleep. If you insist, Arizona State-Texas Tech (average rating: 46), Boise State-Washington State (average rating:44), and San Diego State-Cal (average rating:43) will be interesting challenges for each of those future Bruin opponents.

No matter what the old detractors of the BCS tell you, margin of victory matters. It matters that the Bruins didn’t get blown out at Texas A&M (and didn’t blow out the Aggies, for that matter). It matters that Southern Cal lost by 46. It probably even matters that Colorado blew out Colorado State. Margin of victory gives you information on a team that simple wins and losses do not. Given the respective rankings and ambitions of UCLA and UNLV, this should be a blowout. It doesn’t matter that the Bruins are “working on some things” and that a few players are injured or suspended—a good UCLA team that wants to win a division title should have an easy time with an improving-but-not-there-yet UNLV team. If they don’t, it may be time to start ringing the first real alarm bells of the year.

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

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