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Washington and USC Under Wilcox - A Statistical Review

How Did Wilcox’s Defenses Fared Against Pac-12 Teams

California v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

When Justin Wilcox came to Cal, his calling card is the defensive of the ball. There are 4 seasons where Wilcox lead the defense for a Pac-12 team. Those are good data points.

How did a Wilcox lead defense play against Pac-12 opposition?

Taking in data from Sports-Reference I look at how his defenses over/under performed vis-a-vis the average performance of the team. This is a simple difference of means and actual performance, this does not account for the simple variance/Standard Deviation. This means some of the difference can be caused by variance and not be causal by Wilcox’s defenses.

The bar depict the difference between the in game performance and the given opponent’s average performance.

UW, 2012

We can see here that Wilcox’s passing defenses at UW performed overall really well against passing offenses beside the Air Raid ones: Arizona, Cal, and WSU. It really ship down the passing offenses of the more traditional passing teams such as USC.

This is much more discouraging: Arizona, Cal, and USC really ran all over the Washington defense. Generally speaking it did or at least held their ground on the ground.

USC, 2013

In 2013, the season where Cal mysteriously canceled. Actually, Cal did well against the USC team despite being shellacked 62 to 28... thus we can reasonably say that the underperformance by the Wilcox’s defense is caused by garbage time yards.

This is more evident here. Cal was getting a lot of garbage time rushing. ASU was able to dominate USC’s rushing defense in 62-41 a loss by SC.

USC, 2014

Here we can see more cracks in the SC defense. Passing completions was either held steady or improved by 20 (Arizona game where Anu Solomon attempted 73 passes with 43 completions, where SC won 28-26).

Only against WSU and OSU was USC able to suppress the overall passing game, and it wasn’t fully the case against WSU where only TDs and Yards declined.

With the talent and expectations USC has, keeping passing offenses at average is considered underperformance.

USC kept having a good rushing defense. Sans against Colorado. There is a little correlation between Rushing and Passing. USC still kept every team under their rushing avg. yards per carry.

USC, 2015

Note: Stanford* depicts the Pac-12 Championship game data.

Here we can see the cracks in the USC and the reason for the firing of Justin Wilcox under Clay Helton. Passing completion percentages were above the average team performances, as well as first downs for most opponents despite lower number of attempts.

USC kept the rushing offenses at bay in most cases besides Stanfurd in the Pac-12 Championship game. However, as we know, a team can either pass or run the ball, but can’t do both at the same time. We can see that the previous graph has the teams passing more and rushing less. Still the team kept rushing offenses less productive on a per carry basis.


Overall the Wilcox defenses at USC began declining on the passing side more than on the rushing. Rushing defenses remained stout in the 4 years forcing the teams to underform in aggregate and efficiency levels.

There is a worry that a Wilcox lead passing defense may decline once the veterans depart. Especially when the teams UW/USC faced were Air Raid/Spread teams. We should keep an eye out on how the Cal passing defense performs this and the future season.

Go Bears!