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Cal vs. USC Advanced stats in our Evans Hall Edition Week 8

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Like a Springsteen song our season began with hope and hints of roses in our noses, then it crashed down to the inevitable reality after a solid beatdown by #25 UCLA.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game Impressions

The more I watched the game the worse and worse I felt. By the beginning of the 4th quarter I did what I never thought I would never do, especially after the 2013 season, I quit watching the game. It was bad. There was literally no redeeming quality we exhibited in the game that I was able to point to during the game that would've made watching it marginally better. Passing offense was bad, our WRs failed to get separation when Jared Goff had time in the pocket, and when he didn't our o-line collapsed under the onslaught of a depleted UCLA front 7. This is a front seven that is missing their two most essential players: DE Eddie Varderdoes and LB Myles Jack. Likewise in our run game we failed to generate anything of note besides one or two productive runs by Khalfani Muhammad and our triple-threat QB.

Our defense wasn't any better. 4 dropped INTs by Darius Allensworth, lack of pressure on Josh Rosen as if we forgot the Kraken at home. It was expected since UCLA was #5 in adjusted sack-rate, however, we failed to generate any alarm in the true freshman since his wall continued to hold in a way that the Maginot Line was intended to hold in 1940. It could've been worse too, RB Paul Perkins was sidelined with an injury with SoSo Jambo coming in as a back-up. I can only imagine Perkins' stats if he stayed on the field.

Kudos has to be given to the UCLA team as a whole. They did what Cal wasn't able to do all year long: execute consistently, with purpose, and without having to warm-up or cool down. If Cal has any hope in getting wins this season, then it has to execute better in all phases in the game. We are used to Cal faltering in 1 or 2 phases but always having 1 keeping us in. In this game we have shown how bad it can get when none of the phases show up.

Post-Week 8 Numbers for Cal (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12 North)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense
California 43 (-14) 26 (-6) 63  (-20)

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

We can see a stabilization by our offense and where it stands in the greater scheme of things. We're a top 20-30 offense right now accounting for variance and the fact that our offense seems to be unable to create fireworks and just some fizzle. Our defense dropped towards the FBS median after facing a top ranked (#12) UCLA offense. There isn't much that can be said that hasn't been said about our team before.

Offense
Category Avg. Rk
IsoPPP 1.28 54
Success Rate 48.20% 15
Avg. FP 30.8 50
Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.19 37

We are still generating top notch efficiency in the passing game which I am more more inclined to attribute to Goff's ability to pull magic more-often than not in more mundane passing situations (<10 yards passes) and the fact that these passes mitigate our offensive line's lack of performance. Furthermore, we are still buoyed by the good field position levels, most likely the remnant of the previous ball-hawking games. Besides those two factors our offense is sub-mediocre. Our inability to finish once in the opponent's side of the field and in ability to make big plays continues to hamper our offensive productivity.

When we look at the statistics gathered on our receiving corps we can see that there is an issue with drops and catch-rates:

Player Targets Catches Catch Rate Target Rate
Kenny Lawler 64 39 60.90% 22.80%
Stephen Anderson 40 28 70.00% 14.20%
Bryce Treggs 35 20 57.10% 12.50%
Darius Powe 32 24 75.00% 11.40%
Maurice Harris 23 19 82.60% 8.20%
Trevor Davis 21 16 76.20% 7.50%
Khalfani Muhammad 18 13 72.20% 6.40%

We can see that our top target are getting the ball spread out to them quite evenly despite Kenny Lawler getting nearly twice the looks the #2 Stephen Anderson is getting. The most disconcerting statistic is the fact that our top 4 targets are averaging a 64.88% catch rate on each target (compared with UCLA's top 4 targets with a 68.37% average and USC's 77.57% avg. catch rates).

The blame can be distributed both sides of the pass, Jared Goff has been unable to deliver on more passes than he has the potential to, while our WRs aren't able to gain sufficient separation or necessary position on routes to catch the ball. This wouldn't be frustrating if this was as far as our talent would let us. However, it is due to the fact that I truly believe that we have one of the most complete WR corps in the nation and that to our chagrin they are under performing woefully. Maybe this is the over-confidence from the off-season biting them back? Or is it the fact that we have Sonny Dykes splitting duties at outside WR and HC while OC Tony Franklin is splitting his with running backs?

Defense
Avg. Rk
Standard Downs S&P+ 89.7 103
Standard Downs Success Rate 53.20% 119
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1.01 35
SD Line Yards per Carry 3.2 107
SD Sack Rate 6.00% 44

The story is a little better on defense as long as we're not on our own side of the field. Or rather as long as we're looking at the times we are able to hold the opposing team to passing downs. In Standard Downs we are unable to make anything happen as long as the offense has a viable passing and rushing threat. It seems like we are struggling to identify and react accordingly to plays that are happening in non-passing situations. As evidenced by the numbers, we are struggling in stopping efficient plays especially in being able to physically stop opposing o-lines in rushing situations as we can see from our very high SD Line Yards Per Carry (a statistics that teases out the avg. number of yards per carry generated by the offensive line for the RBs).

Defense
Avg. Rk
Passing Downs S&P+ 111.7 37
Passing Downs Success Rate 26.70% 34
Passing Downs IsoPPP 1.78 67
PD Line Yards per Carry 2.92 42
PD Sack Rate 10.50% 24

When Cal's defense can hold the opponent to obvious passing situations our defense emerges as one of the top in the nation. Surely our ability to contain big plays declines, however, it seems like our scheme and players are much comfortable when the situation, passing or rushing, is more evident in a situational basis. This maybe due to the fact that the players are still thinking then reacting to the situation rather than just reacting to the plays developing around them. This could indicate the fact that our secondary is still learning about its scheme and the plays that they are running.

Post-Week 7 Numbers for USC (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12 South)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense
USC 12 7 44

After USC lost to Washington we all wondered why S&P+ still gave USC a lot of love in their rankings. Surely they couldn't be this good given the turmoil in the coaching staff? Nope. There is a reason to why USC was so well liked in the S&P+ rankings. The win against a #3 Utah showcased what great recruiting, extreme physicality and big-play talent can do for a team when it all falls together.

Offense
Category Avg. Rk
IsoPPP 1.39 16
Success Rate 47.50% 21
Avg. FP 28.1 102
Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.67 6

Besides the avg. field position, USC's offense is exceptional in all of the factors S&P+ takes into account when measuring an offense. Sure they are not as efficient as the Goffense, however, in explosiveness and in efficiency in the opponent's 40 yard line the team showed exceptional performance on offense.

Offense
Avg. Rk
Rushing S&P+ 132.1 6
Rushing Success Rate 50.00% 15
Rushing IsoPPP 1.09 61
Adj. Line Yards 133.4 3
Opportunity Rate 42.30% 29
Power Success Rate 63.60% 80
Stuff Rate 20.50% 83

Offense
Avg. Rk
Passing S&P+ 130.6 8
Passing Success Rate 45.50% 30
Passing IsoPPP 1.64 27
Adj. Sack Rate 85.5 85

Unlike Cal, USC depends on its running as well as the passing game in these statistics. Although the ground game isn't as flashy as the passing one, both remain potent weapons which at the hands of a good game plan can shred any defense. In the ground game USC shares the wealth between 3 main RBs.

Player Ht, Wt Year Rushes Yards TD YPC Opportunity Rate Fumbles(Lost)
Tre Madden 6'1, 225 SR 63 356 4 5.7 47.60% 0 (0)
Ronald Jones II 6'0, 185 FR 59 453 4 7.7 42.40% 1 (0)
Justin Davis 6'1, 195 JR 54 293 3 5.4 42.60% 0 (0)

These three RBs have very similar statistics that show the ability of USC to keep fresh-legs in the backfield thus keeping the rushing game a clear and present threat. I am sure Trace Travers will have good insight into how USC uses these three backs. One thing that is quite admirable is the lack of fumbles, sans one by Jones, by the USC team. Can Cal's opportunistic defense change this trend?

The passing offense rests in the hand of the very efficient Cody Kessler who is continuing a very efficient season. His favorite target seems to be JuJu Smith-Schuster who is the focal point with 27.4% of the targets going his way, 16.4 percentage points higher than Steven Mitchell. What was noted before hand is the fact that the USC WRs are quite sure handed as each one of them have high catch-rates individually as a whole.

USC Offense Cal Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Q1 S&P+ 137.1 8 91.3 97
Q2 S&P+ 143.6 3 100.8 72
Q3 S&P+ 122.5 26 97.3 78
Q4 S&P+ 114.8 33 91.7 90
1st Down S&P+ 129.6 6 91.3 100
2nd Down S&P+ 137.8 6 98.2 73
3rd Down S&P+ 121.8 27 98.9 80

In the situational analysis of the game we can see that it will not be pretty for our defense to stop USC. It looks like the team starts very hot and keeps it up until mid-game where they take a tiny step back. Vis-a-vis our defense that starts slow, warms-up to a luke-warm level and then goes ice cold. The situation isn't better on a per down basis as USC is able to perform very well on 1st and 2nd downs while Cal struggles on those downs, possible due to a lack of ability to account for run/pass situations.

Cal Offense USC Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Q1 S&P+ 129.5 20 89.3 100
Q2 S&P+ 135.8 10 123.1 30
Q3 S&P+ 128.8 17 128.1 19
Q4 S&P+ 103.9 67 105.3 56
1st Down S&P+ 126.8 9 108.5 41
2nd Down S&P+ 122.4 23 103.7 64
3rd Down S&P+ 120.7 31 121.6 26

The picture is a little better for Cal on offense as USC's defense works in a similar pattern to Cal's albeit with higher highs in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. It is paramount that we come in hot on offense and score points or else we will not be able to catch-up to USCs offense. I trust in our Goffensive leader's words that they will look better. I sure hope so. On a per-down basis as long as we can stay away from 3rd and shorts (our fatal flaw it seems) we can move the chains.

Conclusions

Let me be honest. It doesn't look like a pretty match-up. USC is coming off a demolition of what seemed to be the top Pac-12 team while Cal was embarrassed on national TV by a hurting UCLA team. I know we have the talent and most importantly grit to keep up with USC. Grit is something that we do not see in these statistics but is evident by the way we play on the field. As long as we can start hot and not let USC outscheme us the game will be within our reach.

Remember, statistics, numbers are all meaningless once the ball is in the air. Miracles happen every week in football. And though we will probably not need one to win against USC, one would be nice.

GO BEARS!