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Cal football advanced stats midterm review in Evans Hall: Bye Week Edition

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This is a shorter version of my blog. In this one I will look through the team overall throughout the first 6 weeks of the season. This will be done with an emphasis on data points that stick out more then the others.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game Impressions

It is an odd feeling: the overall score was better than I predicted and yet the game by our offense was so sloppy it was hard to imagine that we only lost by 6 points. I have to give our defense huge props for stopping a very efficient Utah passing offense and mitigating Davontae Booker's runs (as much as they could considering Booker's 200+ yard performance).

Jared Goff played the worst game of his life, 4 interceptions in the first half, half of them being either a bad play by Kenny Lawler or a miracle "interception" (the ball was moving gosh darn it) by Utah from a tipped pass. With another interception coming from a pass to Kenny Lawler and a fumble on Daniel Lasco's first and last carry of the night to top it off the offense was unable to execute at the level that Air Raid offenses can. Now, having all of those issues in mind, Jared Goff was still good for 24/47 340 yards (7.2 ypa) and a 2/5 TD/Int ratio. Furthermore, we were 21 yards away from tying and possibly even winning the game (I am not one to trust college kickers even for PATs).

Those who saw the game know why we were this close to winning: Cal's defense. If you were to tell me that we were in the game till the very last play against a #5 team due to our defense but lost it due to poor execution by our offense then I would've told you get your head checked. But here we are in the weird reality of college football: Cal's defense is currently #1 in forced fumbles, tied for #4 in interceptions, and tied for #7 sacks... not in the Pac-12 but in all of FBS! Each short field they were able to stop Utah from running away with the game despite the fumbles.

Quick note on our special teams: I love love love love how we used Harry Adolphus and Goff on 4th downs. By lining up a rugby player who can punt behind Goff in the pistol the team maintains both the threat of a punt, pass, and a run (albeit limited).

Ultimately, it was yet another game where we were unable to get all 3 phases clicking at once. However, knowing that our defense can take care of business against the best of them and so can the offense I am just waiting for the game where everything falls into place. Good God that would be some good football I tell you.

Post-Week 6 Numbers for #23 Cal (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12 North)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense
California 49 (-1) 38 (-8) 65  (+5)

As it was requested earlier, this is the primer I wrote on S&P+ stats that I will be using throughout the year.

As we can see there is much less variance this week than in previous weeks. It seems like the low rating of the team stems from two sources : low explosiveness (#59 and 1.27 explosive plays a game) and inability to get score in the opponent's 40 yard line (#71 for 4.73 points per trip). These numbers drag down our good field position (32.8 yard line, #19), mostly due to our extremely opportunistic defense, and our efficiency in gaining the necessary yards on a per down basis (49.1%, #12).

Avg. Rk
Explosiveness 1.27 59
Efficiency 49.10% 12
Field position 32.8 19
Finishing drives 4.73 71

Yet again if we look into the details of the offense. We can see that our offensive line has continuously failed to provide the push for power run plays (when 1 or 2 yards needed) as well as its inability to protect the RBs from being stuffed from behind the line or on the line of scrimmage. One positive is the fact that when the line can sustain its blocks the running backs are able to get the team into the 40 yard line. This all adds up to a decent rushing offense with a good ability to get the necessary yards on a per down basis but without big explosive plays.

Avg. Rk
Rushing S&P+ 116.2 38
Rushing Success Rate 46.00% 41
Rushing IsoPPP 1.02 82
Adj. Line Yards 104.8 58
Opportunity Rate 41.70% 40
Power Success Rate 43.50% 126
Stuff Rate 22.40% 101

Why is there such a discrepancy between the overall Rushing S&P+, Success Rate, Opportunity Rate, and the Power and Stuff rates? This maybe due to the ever present threat of Jared Goff and the passing game opens up the rushing lanes putting a good mis-match in the box for our rushing offense. By having the defense to be always aware of a pass by Goff we can rush better. However, once the team is put into more obvious pass situations we can see the failure of the o-line to generate the push. I think that overall, even on obvious rushing downs we have to maintain the threat of a pass to open up the box. I noticed that we have been doing more Play-Action out of our heavy sets, if we can do more play-action (like the one that Keegan Dresow broke down earlier this week with the unbalanced formation) or just plain passing plays.

Avg. Rk
Passing S&P+ 96.3 78
Passing Success Rate 39.10% 61
Passing IsoPPP 1.37 49
Adj. Sack Rate 116.8 36

The passing defense was horrendous last year. However, this year the passing defense has been a positive in many of the games. In the Utah game they were able to consistently lock down the WRs (sans the deep post TD by Utah). We can see that the team has been consistently pressure the QB while not giving up many explosive plays. Kyle Kragen has been a big part of this shift towards putting pressure on the QB. I think the depth we have right now on the D-Line has allowed us to keep pressuring the QB.

Finally, when we look at the situational data for both offense and defense.

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Q1 S&P+ 123.1 35 87.6 97
Q2 S&P+ 136.8 15 98.3 75
Q3 S&P+ 137.8 10 107.4 60
Q4 S&P+ 97.8 87 80.8 120
1st Down S&P+ 123.5 20 86.5 116
2nd Down S&P+ 123.4 24 97.2 79
3rd Down S&P+ 128 26 101.7 74

The offense settled into some consistency throughout the first 3 quarters as well as over all 3 downs. It shows that we are starting to find our rhythm until the 4th quarter (which isn't ours just yet). Same with defense, it looks like our team hasn't consistently been able to close off games, whether it has to do with conditioning, scheme or simply execution we have to correct these issues. Nearly all of the upcoming games will be decided in the 4th quarter and "if we keep executing poorly then the games will end badly." - John Madden.


Football. Thou art a horrible monster that devours the hopes, hearts, and minds of men.

And I love it. The statistical review of the team right now paints a picture of a strong offense with a passing offense that opens up the box for the running game that struggles in more obvious rushing situations.This is a team with a avg. defense that can put pressure on the QB although doesn't do very well on 1st downs but improves later on. Like wise on a per quarter basis the defense warms up for the 2nd and 3rd quarters only to fall off the cliff in the 4th quarter.

Yet, with all these quite fitting descriptions do not encompass the sheer madness of this team. Each down presents itself with an opportunity for this team to blow our minds or sink our hearts defying any of these numbers. I remain hopeful about this team; after listening to the post-Utah interviews as well as the Tuesday Oct. 13th interviews I feel a sense of renewed optimism I haven't had after a defeat before. The team is motivated, focused and mature enoguh to learn from the past without dwelling on it. I am positive that this is the last multi-interception game we will see from our Goffensive leader, and judging by the determined and hard-nosed way we played against the #5 team when the odds where stacked against us, I don't see our team folding any time soon.