We all know the Pac-12 has horrible referees. But sometimes raw numbers don't tell the whole story. UCLA, like many Pac-12 teams, runs a high-tempo offense. When you play a high-tempo offense, not only does your offense see more plays in a game, but your defense does as well. More plays in the game = more opportunities for a flag to be thrown. So do Pac-12 teams really play dirtier than in other conferences, or are the inflated penalty numbers a result of the multiple high-tempo offenses in the conference?
Here's a quick run down of the Pac-12 from 2012. All numbers are from ESPN. Special teams plays are not included (ie. FG's, Punts, Kickoffs), only plays that had either a pass or rush attempt.
Team / Offensive snaps / Defensive snaps / Total Penalties / Snaps Per Penalty
UCLA : 1096 / 1040 / 130 / 16.43
Arizona: 1082 / 1121 / 83 / 26.54
ASU: 1011 / 953 / 55 / 35.71
Cal: 817 / 953 / 99 / 17.88
Stanford: 948 / 997 / 84 / 23.15
Utah: 797 / 816 / 83 / 19.43
Colorado: 829 / 824 / 73 / 22.64
Wash: 904 / 865 / 108 / 16.38
Wazzu: 876 / 908 / 86 / 20.74
Oregon: 1058 / 985 / 103 / 19.83
OSU: 946 / 893 / 79 / 23.27
USC: 853 / 967 / 100 / 18.2
So as we can see, UCLA ran a TON of plays last year and led the conference in offensive snaps. They were also 2nd in defensive plays. In contrast, UCLA played over 500 more snaps than Utah (crazy). By the numbers, Washington was actually the most frequently penalized team in the Pac-12. Also, what the heck is going on in the state of Arizona? I'd be curious to see how these stack up to other conferences. (Note: these number are for all games played, not just Pac-12 games).