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Cal vs. Utah advanced stats in our Evans Hall Edition Week 6 preview

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It seem to be that it wouldn't be a Cal football game if it wasn't stressful, and full of "What the s**t was that" moments combined with stretches of "Oh God, Oh God" moments. Alas, we were yet again able to emerge victorious against a team who is at times just confusing as my Economics midterms from undergrad.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game Impressions

Yet again, let me first and foremost eat my hat: I predicted an easy Cal victory over what looked like an outmatched WSU defense and offense. How wrong I was, WSU came in playing like men possessed, with a very accurate QB in Luke Falk who showed a lot of promise against Cal despite being a sophomore. I predict that if he continues to develop the way he has he will become at least the second coming of Connor Halliday if not more considering his good pocket presence and accurate throws.

Cal's offense started very sluggishly against a foe who using S&P+ stats was outmatched on the ground and in the air against Cal. I believe that the fact that they played a foe whose system is similar helped both their offense and defense play better. However, my theory does not hold water when we look back at Cal's offensive performance early on. Jared Goff began the game as badly has he ever had, since the water-polo game against Oregon in 2013, with the first two drives 5/10 for 53 yards and an INT. The offense finally woke up from their slumber and points came especially in the 3rd quarter when Cal's special teams recovered a fumble for a TD off a failed punt fake.

Overall, I would refer you all to Nick Kranz's analysis of the game. He hit every possible point I would've and had done so very eloquently. Especially Kenny Lawler's ridiculous 106 yard 2 TD performance while sick. I mean look at this:

Post-Week 4 Numbers for #23 Cal (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12 North)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense
California 48 (-12) 30 (+1) 70  (-13)

(Note: through the first four weeks of the season, preseason projections will carry diminishing weight in the S&P+ ratings.)

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

Cal defense and the team as a whole continues to confound the S&P+ system. We keep either going under or over the expectations. Let me re-cap last weeks analysis: according to the S&P+ system we were supposed to win the game comfortably. Cal's offense should've overwhelmed a WSU that struggled against an S&P+ #110 Rutgers. However, there we were not being able to produce rushing yards against a team that ranked in the bottom 15 in all but one Defensive S&P+ Rushing statistic. What we and I can learn from this? It is not to trust the statistics as much as I used to, as it was exemplified in my prediction of a Cal blow-out of WSU. This is not to say that the S&P+ statistics aren't useful, they still are useful tools that help us understand the game.

The statistics continue to confirm what we have seen on the field: our inability to convert Power Plays AKA rushers on 3rd or 4th down with 2 yards or less to go. We can see how the Power-I with Malik McMorris in the backfield as FB is not showing the results we need. According to S&P+ we were only able to convert 43.5% of these tries good for a ranking of 127. An average team converts in those situations 68.2% of times. Furthermore, our Stuff Rate remains high with 24.3% of our runs being stuffed on or behind the line of scrimmage.

On the bright side our passing offense continues to be lethal and most importantly efficient in getting the necessary yards on all downs. Despite being right around the national avg. in explosive passing plays we are still have a very good offense when moving the chains on a consistent basis (ranked #5), this only improves when only looking at passing downs where the Goffense is #2 in the nation in efficiency.

One of the more interesting statistics right now is the opportunity rate that the offensive line is generating for our running backs. Opportunity Rate refers to the ability of the line to give the RB 5 rushing yards, that is, the first 5 yards of each rush are credited to the o-line, the next 5 are split between the RB and the line and any yards afterwards credited to the RB. Although this methodology isn't perfect it allows us some insight into the production of the line. According to Football Study Hall our O-line hasn't been generating a lot of push for Vic Enwere and were more successful in creating space for Khalfani Muhammad. This maybe due to the way we use our two RBs, their skill-sets are complements to each other and it would make sense that the play-calls for Khalfani involve more lateral movement to the outside vis-a-vis Vic's between the tackles. It may indicate that the line is much better at outside runs.

Player Pos. Rushes Yards TD Yards/ Carry Highlight Yards/Opp. Opportunity Rate Fumbles (Lost)
Vic Enwere RB 54 257 5 4.8 7.9 29.60% 2 (2)
Khalfani Muhammad RB 39 350 1 9 10.1 53.80% 1 (1)
Daniel Lasco RB 34 159 2 4.7 4.1 41.20% 0 (0)
Tre Watson RB 27 97 1 3.6 1.7 33.30% 0 (0)
Jeffrey Coprich RB 10 23 1 2.3 1 10.00% 0 (0)
Jared Goff QB 8 52 0 6.5 4.1 50.00% 2 (1)
Fabiano Hale RB 5 24 0 4.8 1.2 80.00% 0 (0)
Kenny Lawler WR 2 15 0 7.5 1.8 100.00% 1 (1)
Chase Forrest QB 1 5 0 5 0.5 100.00% 0 (0)

Week 6 Opponent : #5 University of Utah Utes (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense
Utah 19 31 30

Since the destruction of Michigan and Oregon Utah Utes have been on a steady upwards trajectory into its current #5 ranking on the AP Poll. S&P+ states that they are #19 when the performance on the field is factored in. Although not as high as it's AP Ranking would suggest, the Utes have a very potent offense and defense. We can acknowledge that the offensive scoring output is inflated by the Fresno State and Oregon games, however, this can also be said about Cal when we faced Grambling State and SDSU.

Their offensive output is still impressive due to their ability to finish drives, overall each time they have driven past the opponent's 40 yard line the Utah has been able to score 6.46 points, this means that 86.5% of the time they will score a touchdown. To compound their ability in the red-zone the defense has only allowed 3.57 points scored per drive, good for #18 in the nation, and a conversion rate of 19%. Conversely Cal has been able to average 5.17 points past the 40 yard line ( a number depressed by our performance against Washington) good for a 54.25% conversion rate and a #35 ranking. Our defense allows on average 5.09 points, good for a 52.25% conversion rate and #99 ranking in the nation.

Offensive Performance past the Opponent's 40 yard line. Defensive Performance past the Team's 40 yard line.
Ranking Avg. Points Scored Conversion Rate(%) Ranking Avg. Points Allowed Conversion Rate(%)
Utah 2 6.46 86.5 18 3.57 19
Cal 35 5.17 54.25 99 5.09 52.25

One of the points of optimism for Cal is the fact that the biggest weakness of the stout Utah defense seems to match-up well with Cal's strength. The Utes' passing defense doesn't seem to be able to handle efficient QB play allowing 41% of the passes to go for the "efficient" yards despite having a high adjusted sack rate.

Cal Offense Utah Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 121.3 26 91.7 92 100
Passing Success Rate 52.90% 5 41.00% 82 40.10%
Passing IsoPPP 1.45 67 1.28 27 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 77.2 96 137 26 100

On the other hand Utah's passing offense seems to be just as efficient as Cal's Goffense with the added benefit of keeping their QB upright. We can see the sole beneficial match-up between Cal's Passing defense and Utah Passing offense is the fact that Cal is much better at stopping big passing plays than Utah is at generating them. However, the stark contrast between the sack rates can cause some concern, if we cannot pressure the QB, how can we stop the big plays? Utah surrendered only one sack in the last 4 games vs. 12 for Cal. I think it will be key for our DBs to be disciplined on intermediate routes and for our LBs to hold the between the hashes area clear.

Utah Offense Cal Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 135.4 8 91.5 93 100
Passing Success Rate 47.70% 18 40.10% 74 40.10%
Passing IsoPPP 1.29 108 1.32 43 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 650.3 2 90.3 81 100

Compare and Contrast Time

This is going to be the a tough road for Cal to travel. Rice-Eccles is a loud, and proud stadium filled with enthusiastic fans that have a good reason to be happy. I believe that this game will be decided in the air. Will Jared Goff be able to stay up-right and deliver accurate strikes that will wear down the Ute? Can Cal stop the efficient ball play by the Utah's Travis Wilson? I have no doubt that the best QB on the field will be our Goffensive leader.

Finally, let's look at how we are doing on a per quarter basis. As you may recall from the pre-WSU write-up, the team had been very inconsistent on the defense between quarters while the offense found some consistency. This time we can see a more even performance:

Quarters Offensive S&P+ Defensive S&P+
1st 52 (-24) 105 (+6)
2nd 16 (+4) 68 (-26)
3rd 19 (+14) 78 (-38)
4th 24 (-8) 117 (+11)

The WSU game showed that when Cal starts cold, it really does. There is further regression on the defense as the huge 5 turnover performance against Washington is now balanced out with the WSU game. Again it seems like Cal needs at least a quarter to warm up and apply game-time adjustments to fire up. For the defense we shift from 2014 level work into competence and back into 2014 level badness, the offense remains potent across the board.

I think Utah will win, it has the homefield advantage with a more balanced team than Cal. However, we will give them a scare throughout the game. Utah 42 - Cal 32.