Beat the Trees – UCLA's Week 12 Trajectory Update

Trojans in the rear view mirror. - Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

After what was the biggest game of the year against Southern Cal, a rivalry game with post-season implications, the Bruins are faced with another huge game against Stanford; this time the Bruins are playing for potential home field advantage in the Pac-12 Championship game, and if they win out, the Rose Bowl.

Promoted from fanpost. Another fantastic post from dbear737. - BN Eds.

After what was the biggest game of the year against Southern Cal, a rivalry game with post-season implications, the Bruins are faced with another huge game against Stanford; this time the Bruins are playing for potential home field advantage in the Pac-12 Championship game, and if they win out, the Rose Bowl.

I thought the frontpagers' were fair in setting up their expectations for the Bruins this year. They took a bottom-up approach, analyzed each game (OOC, home, away), and expected the Bruins to come into the Southern Cal game with 8 or 9 wins before reversing recent fortunes against Troy. My favorite bit of the analysis was this line from Tasser: "Matt Barkley stayed at U$C, which I hope he will regret a lot and cry himself to sleep over." Ain't karma sweet?

To be honest, at the outset I didn't think the Bruins would achieve frontpager standards - not because those standards weren't reasonable, but because of the soft culture our program had and the unproven leader we'd brought in to fix it. There were some real doubts that we'd get there, especially after that Cal game, but the Bruins delivered. Congratulations to Coach Mora, his staff and our tough student-athletes for all of their hard work and determination this year - amazing year so far and it's not even over!

2012 Results vs. Expectations

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Moving forward, let's see how things look against Stanford using the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI).

The FEI, created by Brian Fremeau, rates a team based on how successful it has been toward maximizing its scoring opportunities while limiting its opponents' scoring opportunities (i.e., are we scoring when we should given our field position and the strength of our opponent, and are we holding other teams from scoring given their field position and strength).

OVERALL

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This chart shows the overall, offensive and defensive efficiency ratings for U.C.L.A. and Stanford. The numbers above the bars represent the team's respective rank in each category. As with last week, I excluded Special Teams Efficiency (STE) from the graph due to our rough start - the Indians are ranked 26th and the Bruins 74th (up one spot from last week). Special Teams has been playing out of its mind these past two games and I'm not the least bit concerned about this unit.

Overall, Stanford jumped 3 spots from last week with their win over the Ducks; U.C.L.A. fell 1 spot with its win over Southern Cal. Makes sense, I guess, after all it was just$c.

The graph clearly shows this game to be a defensive battle for both teams. In general, Stanford gets the nod, and the Bruins will be going up against the most efficient defense in the Pac-12. OSU, ranked third in the conference, is the toughest defense in the Pac that the Bruins have faced thus far; U.C.L.A. is ranked right behind them at fourth.

Let's take a closer look at the components that make up the offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. The measurements below consider at what our offense has accomplished and what our defense has allowed our opponent to accomplish in terms of:

  • 1st Down -Percentage of drives resulting in at least one 1st down or TD
  • Available Yards -Ratio of yards earned to total yards avail based on starting field position
  • Explosive Drives -Percentage of drives that average 10+ yards per play
  • Methodical Drives -Percentage of drives that run 10+ plays
  • Value Drives -Percentage of drives starting on own side of field that reach opponent's 30-yard line or better

OFFENSE

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This defense looks suffocating. The only category that is remotely close is Methodical Drives (those running 10+ plays), where U.C.L.A. actually has the advantage, albeit it ever so slight. The key then for U.C.L.A. will be to keep its drives alive and actually turn yardage into points. The field position battle will be crucial.

By the numbers, let's look at last week's pertinent games. Oregon and U.C.L.A. had almost identical yardage in last week's games (405 vs. 406) - the difference was U.C.L.A. converting that to 38 points, enough to win, while Oregon managed only 14 points. Part of this was due to big plays by the Stanford defense, which often occurred early in Oregon's possession. This put the Ducks in several third and long positions, something they are unaccustomed due to their stellar running attack.

IEAngel further supports this in his always exceptional "Eye Test". IE likes this matchup for U.C.L.A., noting that Stanford has "not faced a run-pass offense as balanced as UCLA's. Oregon is more run reliant than the Bruins and Stanford eliminated the zone-read... UCLA can lean on the passing game and I trust Johnathan Franklin and our offensive line against any defense in the country not residing in Tuscaloosa."

Agreed. Oregon is not known for its sophisticated passing attack. The Bruins have a plethora of receivers it can go to help loosen up the Indians and allow Jet Ski to work his magic.

DEFENSE

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Nothing to worry about, right? Shut out! Actually, this graph is a little misleading because the figures used represent raw numbers before they're adjusted for SOS. For reference, Stanford's raw Offensive Efficiency (i.e., the numbers graphed above) is ranked 71st, but jumps to 48th when adjusted for SOS. Stanford's SOS to date is ranked 6th, while the Bruins' is 70th.

What I like about this graph is that there are no comparable categories above - U.C.L.A.'s defense far outweighs Stanford's offense in every category. But remember, this is not adjusted for SOS. Once adjusted, U.C.L.A.'s defense is still 34 points above Stanford's offense; however, Stanford's defense is 43 points above U.C.L.A.'s offense.

Time for Hogan to take the Barr exam. #BarrSoHard

VERDICT?

Here is how the FEI has done at predicting our games so far:

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The vertical axis represents the % liklihood that the Bruins will win. FEI has been right on 59% of its U.C.L.A. predictions; we beat the odds on the desert schools, but failed miserably against Cal.

The FEI gives us a 43.2% chance of beating the Indians this week. However, besides the offensive advantage explored above, I think the Bruins have a coaching advantage going into this. Listening to the post-game interviews almost all of our players qualified their joy with a statement about getting better and focusing on Stanford. Success has been driven into these kids' minds. Coach Mora will have his team ready. With home field advantage, if U.C.L.A. can unsettle Stanford with a balanced attack, our defense should be able to hold Stanford to eek out a win (over/under at 45).

Coach Mora's season has been a success based on the tough, yet fair, expectations set up by this community. Time now for the Bruins to THINK BIG - the monopoly isn't over, it's just started.

ADDENDUM
Even though the players have moved their focus to the Indians, I'm still riding a high from most recent win (even if partially tempered by last night's loss to the Hoyas). One more quick celebration for:

The players...

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The coaches...

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...and the fans.

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-dbear737

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