Go Joe Bruin’s analytics guru Chris Osgood takes a look at the UCLA football team’s play calling and outcome from their 37-7 win over California.
The first level analysis of UCLA football‘s offense from the Cal game was well covered on air and the day after; Chip Kelly channeled his inner Norv Turner to ride a plethora of Tight Ends from under center to run the ball 71% of the time.
The more interesting development to me was the first deployment of the Check-With-Me approach to play calling by UCLA this year. This is where the offense lines up and all turn to look at the coach for a last minute play change after the defense lines up (based on personnel). This article chronicles the practice seeping into the NFL this year.
"What I’ve just described has been going on in college football for years in Check With Me offenses. Ever notice that some college offense will line up and possibly go through some motion or quarterback cadence before 11 heads suddenly turn to the sideline? That’s a Check With Me. The offense is looking for a signal from the coaching staff now that the staff has had a chance to see the defense line up. College offenses that play at a high tempo have the luxury to exercise these checks because they’re lined up a full 25 seconds before they need to snap the ball."
It was funny watching the far side offensive tackles struggle to pick out the call from the sideline much of the time. What we won’t know, is if Chip placed this responsibility on the QB before (and yanked it away from DTR this game), or if they had simply been running whatever was called (regardless of the opposing defensive alignment).
They used Check-With-Me on 19 of their 63 plays this week (never from under center) and achieved an eye popping 8.0 YPP, with a 63% success rate, and 11.7 YPP on successes. 16 of the 19 Check-With-Me’s wound up being mesh run IZR or OZR plays. The most common obvious change after a check was to flip the RB side in hybrid alignment. The three passes that came after a check had a 100% success rate.
I think the main check was whether or not to flip a called read option run play, with a simple alternative call to a set pass play by exception. The success of this approach showcases Chip Kelly’s ability to diagnose what’s going on real time. Will Chip continue to use Check-With-Me going forward, or was this another single week wrinkle? I’ve added a “CWM” column to the google doc and will keep tracking it if it’s still in use going forward. Impress your friends at viewing parties next week by predicting IZR after every check.