Thursday, January 19, 2012
Season grade: UCLA
By ESPN.com staff
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.
Up next: UCLA
Offense: The Bruins ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (23.1 points per game) and ninth in total offense (376.6 yards per game). They ran the ball well -- again -- out of the pistol formation, ranking third in the conference with 191 yards rushing per game. But the passing game was -- again -- mostly anemic with 198 yards per game. It ranked eighth in passing efficiency with just 16 TD passes. Good running teams typically do well on third down, but not UCLA, which ranked 10th in the conference with a 36.4 percent conversion rate. The Bruins also fumbled 16 times, most in the conference by three. Seven teams had single-digit fumbles. The Bruins had no first- or second-team All Pac-12 players.
Defense: The Bruins ranked eighth in the conference in both scoring (31.4 ppg) and total defense (417.1). They were particularly weak against the run, surrendering 190.6 yards per game, which ranked 11th in the conference and 96th in the nation. While the pass efficiency defense was mediocre in terms of rating, the Bruins surrendered 27 TD passes, third most in the conference. The Bruins also struggled to pressure the QB. They had just 13 sacks, which ranked 11th in the conference. Opponents converted on third down at a 48.4 percent clip, which also ranked 11th in the conference. Just like the offense, no player earned first- or second-team all-conference honors.
Overall: Some of you have been averaging the two above grades and then taken issue with our math, which is fine, but not what the final grade is about. The final grade takes in the totality of a season; it's not just about statistical measures. And the Bruins' season was complicated. Not much was expected of them in the preseason, yet they managed to finish the regular season at 6-6 and -- because of USC's ineligibility -- claim the South Division title. So, say what you want, but they did enough to eclipse four other South Division teams. That said, they also played poorly enough to get coach Rick Neuheisel fired, and it's difficult to spin a three-game losing streak at season's end that included a 50-zip defeat to those rival Trojans. In the end, the Bruins had a bad season, but it probably needs to be distinguished from Arizona State, which completely collapsed, and Oregon State, which went 3-9. Ergo, the "+" below.