Today is a big day for us - our readers and community members along with the editors of Bruins Nation, and for the people behind SBNation as a whole and for the 300+ other blogs in the network. In the spirit of the day, the college blogs are making an effort to share some of the work that our sister sites have created.
Bill Connelly is a pretty awesome writer that SBN has writing for the College mothership, who also contributes to a few of the college blogs in the network. Earlier in the summer, he wrote a post for Football Study Hall looking at how skill and luck relate to some of the things that a defense does, using last years Oklahoma State team to present his framework of how fortunate a defense can be. The short takeaway is that disrupting plays - defending passes and forcing fumbles - does not involve much luck by a defense, but capitalizing on those disruptions - making them into turnovers - is based upon luck as much, if not more than simply being good.
The link in the last paragraph lays out the framework and its application to that 2011 Oklahoma State team. Now, lets take a quick look at how the Bruin defense looks through the first third of the 2012 season.
Fumbles Forced: 5 (22nd nationally) -- Mostly a function of a defense's skill and execution. The UCLA defense under Coach Spanos is doing pretty well with this skill so far.
Fumbles Recovered: 7 fumbles, 4 recovered -- Fumbles forced does not have to match up with the total number of fumbles - an offensive or special teams player can simply lose the ball without a determination that a defender forced it. That said, the Bruins'57% recovery rate is middle of the pack (42nd nationally). Not lucky or unlucky.
Interceptions: 8 (T-2nd nationally) -- Interceptions have a certain luck element to them, related to how many passes a defense is able to break up. While Randall Goforth may have dropped a pair of INT's against Nebraska, the 8 successful picks demonstrates that when there is a realistic chance of intercepting a pass, the D is making the most of their opportunities.
Passes Broken Up: 23 (7th nationally) -- PBUs are a function of defensive skill, and not simple luck. These strong PBU numbers suggest that - as crazy as it sounds with a secondary which includes the Toast Twins - the defense might actually be playing some solid pass D.
Passes Defended: 31 (4th nationally) -- Opponents have attempted 156 passes this year, with UCLA making an Interception or PBU on 31 of them, for a 19.9% passes defended rate. That is actually a strong rate.
While some of their play has been frustrating to watch unfold, the UCLA defense hasn't been bit by demonstrably bad luck so far this year, and has done well with the things within their control - the skill related events. The team turnover margin of +4 (12 gained, to 8 lost) is 25th nationally. Since 2007, the only Bruin team to finish better than .500 (the 2009 squad that went 7-6) was also the only one of the five to have a positive turnover margin.