UCLA has not been very good this season, but here comes Oregon State to show everybody that it could always get worse. The Beavers have improved to get to the point where they just might get to four wins this season. Even in this lost season, it would be a huge surprise for the Bruins to lose to Oregon State—the real interesting thing will be to see if there will be more fans at this game than the last time the Beavers came to the Rose Bowl, when 54,000 people came to the Rose Bowl in Jim Mora’s first year. Also the uniforms actually look pretty cool.
As in previous years, we track 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
UCLA Offense/OSU Defense
It will be interesting to see what happens on this side of the ball, as each team is terrible at the same thing the other team is terrible at. You all know the deal with the UCLA rushing offense, but the Oregon State rushing defense is 126th in the country in rushing success rate allowed. That is actually worse than Cal (125th) and Oregon (120th), which are two horrible horrible rushing defenses. Of course, with the UCLA rushing offense 124th in the country in rushing success rate, it will be legitimately fascinating to see which terrible unit is able to best the other terrible unit.
The UCLA offense is mediocre at passing the ball, and the OSU defense is ok at stopping the pass. Football Study Hall ranks the Beavers a surprising 29th in defensive S&P+ against the pass (S&P+ is a general measure of overall quality). According to Oregonlive.com, “OSU defensive coordinator Kevin Clune said he "really, really" likes the Bruins' group of receivers.” We note that he did not say that he really really thinks the Bruins’ group of receivers is any good, but when the Oregon State defensive coordinator is giving pity quotes to try to pump up his opponent, the season has taken a turn for the worse. The UCLA offense, which has proven its inability to run the ball all season, must decide whether it should run the ball against Oregon State’s weakness or pass the ball against one of the stronger areas of the entire OSU team.
Last season the UCLA defense completely shut down the Oregon State offense when it became clear that their quarterback had zero ability to throw the ball. This year, a much better UCLA defense must contend with an Oregon State offense that still cannot throw the ball but is actually surprisingly competent at running the ball. The Beavers are 11th in the entire country in rushing S&P+, though they appear to be without the services of starter Ryan Nall, who is averaging a scorching 7.2 yards per carry. No running back on the team is averaging more than 5.3, so it will be interesting to see if the UCLA defense can shut down the OSU run game. The last time the Bruins were in the Rose Bowl, the defense basically threw away any chance it had at finishing in the top 5 nationally in any of the big stats with a complete glitch against Joe Williams and the mediocre Utah offense. They righted the ship last week, but with the UCLA pass defense truly one of the elite pass defenses in the country and Oregon State currently rotating two bad quarterbacks, the Beavers will almost certainly try to run the ball on the Bruin defense.
To truly enjoy a UCLA football game, we highly suggest rooting for the defense and then whatever happens on offense and special teams happens. For example, we generally enjoyed the Colorado game (as opposed to everybody else on College Football Twitter) because we rooted for the defense and they were dominant. It has been a very tough year, but you don’t get to see a defense this good in Bruin blue very often, so try to enjoy it and wonderful seniors Takkarist McKinley, Jaylen Brown, Fabian Moreau, and Eddie Vanderdoes (ok fine he’s not a senior but he’s leaving soon) while you can.
The Bruins have been really bad at special teams this season, but the Beavers haven’t really been good enough to make it seem like they will be able to take advantage of UCLA’s weaknesses here. Victor Bolden has returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but he is averaging under 4 yards per punt return. It would be nice to see Jim Mora actually stick to one punter and one kicker, though we’re not holding our breath.
The Massey College Football Ranking Composite, taking 119 different rating systems into account, has UCLA as the #56 team in college football, while Oregon State is #77. The Bruins’ rankings range from #23 to #95 with a standard deviation of 18.54. This standard deviation very high compared to most teams with similar ranking levels, meaning there is a ton of disagreement over where UCLA belongs to be rated right now. That happens when you have a great defense and a truly awful offense. The Beavers rankings range from #35 to #120, with a standard deviation of 15.24. This standard deviation is about the same as most teams at the same ranking level, meaning there is a fair amount of consensus that this is where OSU belongs.
Using Brian Fremeau’s FEI ratings, FEI predicts a 33-14 UCLA win. Bill Connelly’s S&P+ predicts a 32-20 Bruin victory.
9 AM Slot: The best game is probably Baylor at Oklahoma State (average Massey Rating: 24.5), but watching Baylor do anything makes us feel almost as icky as Penn State does, so maybe watch the smooth stylings of Nick Saban’s Process against Mississippi State (averaging rating: 30.5) instead. If you go in an entirely different direction, Iowa State-Kansas should be something (average rating: 114.5).
Noon Slot: Pitt-Clemson (average rating: 24) and Auburn-Georgia (average rating: 29) get the glamor TV stations, but if you do not watch Texas Tech-Oklahoma State instead (average rating: 48; Over/Under: 90), you will miss out on a quality pointsplosion.
Early Evening Slot: LSU-Arkansas (average rating: 24.5), Ole Miss-Texas A&M (average rating: 21), Michigan-Iowa (average rating: 25.5), and Southern Cal-Washington (average rating: 10) gives good depth to the early evening despite no top ten battles.
#Pac12AfterDark Slot: Root for the Bruin defense and enjoy yourself. If the offense does fun things, that would be cool too. Cal-Wazzu will probably be infinitely more fun to watch for those inclined to stay home.
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