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Cal vs. Oregon Advanced stats in our Evans Hall Edition Week 9

So it comes again. Cal v. Oregon, the great battle between the two pre-eminent spread offenses in the Pac-12. Both teams are hungry: Cal reeling from a 0-3 slide and Oregon trying its best to grasp back at the former glory it had a year ago. All will be decided on the gridiron this Saturday. But lets see what the numbers say about this match-up.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game Impressions

We tried hard. However, again the offense came-off as inexplicably inefficient. Jared Goff is slowly notching additional interceptions to his total, deviating away from the 9:1 ratio dreamed by Tony Franklin, now standing at a much lower but still respectable 2:1 ratio. It didn't look like we executed well throughout the game. Besides the second drive were it all clicked together on offense (13 plays for 87 yards, 8 runs and 5 pass attempts).

Cal went into the locker-room with the game within reach, USC was slowed down on nearly of its drives except for the two scoring ones, with the Cal defense exhibiting good coverage and tackling in the secondary. One of the most troubling issues however was our inability to contain the backside cutback lane during runs by the RBs. Every once in a while the  space between the RG and LG would present a large hole for USC's RBs to exploit as the flow of the blocking scheme went left. Besides that we played very well on defense, enough to hold an explosive USC team to a winnable margin (20 points).

On offense one development I really enjoyed was the employment of a 3 WR, 2RB split formation. With both Khalfani Muhammad and Daniel Lasco in the backfield they provided good pass-protection on passing-plays where they would stay back to help with any free rushers. In the run game this formation now allows for the outside/inside zone running game to go either way since both RBs are skilled runners and blockers in the run game. I can imagine that this one was one of the reason we were able to produce big chunk yardage at the beginning of the game.

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

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense
California 41 (+2) 23 (+3) 60  (+3)

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

There wasn't a lot of movement on the aggregate statistical side of the S&P+ formulation. It looks like Cal's offense will continue to be an overall very good offense with the defense solidly in the average range. A deeper look into the sub-components of the statistics:

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Explosiveness 1.22 83 1.16 27
Efficiency 48.90% 10 44.80% 92
Field position 30.1 67 30.6 91
Finishing drives 4.69 79 4.76 76

Again we can see the flaws and strength of Cal football continuing. The offense struggling with trying to find a way to make big plays despite being able to make good progress with yeoman yards. Our field position begins to comeback down to earth once defense's high take-away numbers regressed to the mean. When we look at the defensive numbers we can see a troubling trends where 15.2% of the tackles are made by the safeties. This would indicate that the LBs are not making the necessary tackles on RBs to prevent them from getting into the secondary while as CBs maybe letting the receivers after the catch a tad too long.

Name Pos Tackles % of Team
Damariay Drew S 42 9.10%
Hardy Nickerson LB 38.5 8.30%
Kyle Kragen DE 36.5 7.90%
Jalen Jefferson LB 32.5 7.00%
Darius White CB 30 6.50%
Stefan McClure S 28.5 6.10%
Darius Allensworth CB 24.5 5.30%
Cameron Walker DB 21 4.50%
Michael Barton LB 16.5 3.60%
James Looney DT 16 3.40%
Luke Rubenzer S 16 3.40%
Devante Downs LB 14 3.00%
Jonathan Johnson DE 13 2.80%
Puka Lopa DE 8.5 1.80%
Mustafa Jalil DT 8 1.70%
Khari Vanderbilt S 8 1.70%
Nathan Broussard LB 8 1.70%
DeVante Wilson DE 7.5 1.60%
Jake Kearney LB 7 1.50%
Tony Mekari DT 7 1.50%
Raymond Davison LB 6.5 1.40%
Todd Barr DE 6 1.30%
Trey Turner S 5.5 1.20%
David Davis DT 5 1.10%
Daniel Lasco RB 4 0.90%

Despite his high totals, Hardy Nickerson has moments when he is faced in a 1-on-1 situation and is often times a step behind the opponent unable to make the tackle in open space. Often times he is in the right position to make a tackle but with one move he is grasping for the player's ankles. Is it anticipation of body movement? Is it maybe the fact that he is physically outmatched in space?

Avg. Rk
Passing S&P+ 131.7 7
Passing Success Rate 52.10% 3
Passing IsoPPP 1.36 92
Adj. Sack Rate 126.1 34

When we look at the passing offense's statistics we can see a very efficient offense that is lead by a QB who can make quick and accurate throws for short, dirty, yards when needed. However, the explosiveness meter still shows the fact that we can't either stretch the field more often than an average CFB team or we can't convert quick passes into large YAC.

When drilling down into the catch rates of our top 10 receivers by targets we can see another trend.

Player Pos. Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/Catch Yds/Target Catch Rate Target Rate
Kenny Lawler WR 68 42 527 9 12.6 7.8 61.80% 22.00%
Stephen Anderson TE 45 31 373 1 12 8.3 68.90% 14.60%
Bryce Treggs WR 40 24 381 3 15.9 9.5 60.00% 12.90%
Darius Powe WR 36 27 269 3 10 7.5 75.00% 11.70%
Trevor Davis WR 26 21 398 2 19 15.3 80.80% 8.40%
Maurice Harris WR 24 20 231 3 11.6 9.6 83.30% 7.80%
Khalfani Muhammad RB 18 13 110 1 8.5 6.1 72.20% 5.80%
Raymond Hudson TE 9 5 63 0 12.6 7 55.60% 2.90%
Kanawai Noa WR 8 5 68 0 13.6 8.5 62.50% 2.60%
Vic Enwere RB 8 6 12 0 2 1.5 75.00% 2.60%
Chad Hansen WR 6 5 48 0 9.6 8 83.30% 1.90%

We can see that Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson, and Bryce Treggs all dominate Goff's target list gathering nearly 50% of all of Goff's targets up to this point in the season.

Total Targets Total Catches Catch Rate
Top 3 153 97 63.40%
Top 5 215 145 67.44%
Top 10 282 194 68.79%

When we look at the catch rates by top targets we can see that as per the chart the top 3 receivers, Lawler and Treggs specifically, skew the data downwards due to their very low catch rates. This maybe the product of two things: 1) Goff looks to his most trusted receivers to make plays when under pressure often times throwing balls into extremely tight windows, or 2) defenses have keyed on the two as Cal's key playmakers. I am of a belief that it is a little column 1) and a little column 2). An encouraging fact remains that both Treggs, Lawler as well as Trevor Davis can gain very good yardage on average per reception showing that they remain explosive players with the ball in their hands.

Post-Week 8 Numbers for Oregon (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12 North)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense
Oregon 60 21 97

Oregon has not been able to return to the dominance on offense and defense from 2014. Furthermore, the shuffling at the QB position due to the injury to Vernon Adams. However, the defense continues to be porous:

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Explosiveness 1.33 35 1.26 74
Efficiency 46.40% 26 45.00% 98
Field position 33 17 30.8 95
Finishing drives 5.09 45 5.29 111

By dominance I mean Oregon being top 10 in the nation in every offensive category. On defense it looks very bad, especially in the match-up against Cal's efficiency, Oregon will have to find a way to stop the Cal WRs from catching the quick routes. Furthermore, Oregon's red-zone defense looks quite abysmal.

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Rushing S&P+ 126.5 11 84.1 113
Rushing Success Rate 50.00% 12 45.70% 98
Rushing IsoPPP 1.16 29 1.19 103
Adj. Line Yards 122.6 10 90.5 105
Opportunity Rate 45.40% 6 41.90% 106
Power Success Rate 59.10% 103 70.80% 92
Stuff Rate 16.20% 24 16.20% 102

We can see that in terms of the running game, Oregon has the case of being a Jekyll and Hyde with the possession of the ball the elixir that flips the switch. Oregon's rushing defense has been abysmal across the board, with no redeeming statistic to hang its hat on. One of the most significant statistics is the fact that with its inability to generate run pressure on the line of scrimmage we will have another match-up of weakness against weakness in the Cal running game. When looking ex-ante into the Cal v. UCLA match-up the same scenario unfolded where Cal was unable to run the ball against a weakened UCLA team. Will the same happen again for Cal? I sure hope not however I remain skeptical. The reason for Oregon's rushing prowess can be contained in two words: Royce Freeman.

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Rushes Yards TD YPC Opportunity Rate Fumbles (Lost)
Royce Freeman RB 5'11, 230 SO 166 1109 11 6.7 46.40% 2 (0)

He is having an amazing season being able to rack-up substantial yardage and touchdowns despite being the player that the opposing defenses were keying onto when the QB position was being evaluated. Freeman has had the workload of nearly all of our Top 3 RBs combined (166 v. 183) in purely rushing situations not including the 21 targets for 18 catches he has with Oregon.

Therefore, the key for Cal's defense is to stop Freeman for <5 YPC and few catches. If we can contain, not stop, Freeman we will have a very good shot at killing-off the Oregon offense whose passing game depends on Freeman being a viable rushing threat. This is due to the significant drop-off between the Oregon offenses'  ratings on passing downs (#14 overall v. #54 overall).

Name Pos Tackles % of Team
Joe Walker LB 40.5 8.70%
Rodney Hardrick LB 38 8.20%
DeForest Buckner DL 34 7.30%
Arrion Springs DB 31 6.70%
Tyree Robinson SS 30.5 6.60%
Tyson Coleman LB 27 5.80%
Charles Nelson WR 25.5 5.50%
Reggie Daniels DB 25 5.40%
Christian French LB 20.5 4.40%
Torrodney Prevot LB 18.5 4.00%
Juwaan Williams SS 17.5 3.80%
Alex Balducci DL 17 3.70%
Tui Talia DL 16.5 3.60%
Ugo Amadi CB 14 3.00%
Glen Ihenacho DB 13.5 2.90%
Johnny Ragin III LB 11 2.40%
Henry Mondeaux DL 10.5 2.30%
Chris Seisay CB 10.5 2.30%
Danny Mattingly LB 9 1.90%
Jimmie Swain LB 8.5 1.80%
Khalil Oliver DB 6 1.30%
Kirk Merritt WR 5 1.10%
T.J. Daniel DL 3 0.60%
Jalen Jelks DL 3 0.60%
Ty Griffin DB 3 0.60%

We can see here that unlike in Cal's situation most of the tackling, when it is done in the case of Oregon, is done by the top two LBs and their star defensive player DeForest Buckner who has 11 TFLs and 6 sacks for the season. Another significant figure in this statistic is the fact that only 10.4% of the total tackling is done by the safeties. We can deduce that either the solid tackling by the front is the reason for the low total or the fact that the tackling done by the safeties is bad. I am inclined towards the latter argument due to the fact that in terms of stopping explosive run plays Oregon has been unable to generate the necessary secondary stops.

Cal's main weakness in the passing game: the lack of an explosive component, seems to match well for Oregon that despite its inability to stop efficient passing play has been very good at snuffing away explosive passing plays. This could indicate good coverage by CBs and tackling as evidenced by Arrion Springs' high tackling total.


Ultimately, this game will boil down to being able to stop Royce Freeman and letting our run-game dominate the weak Oregon rush defense. I would caution against optimism since UCLA also exhibited these symptoms and Cal was unable to execute upon them. Furthermore, the match-up between Royce Freeman and Hardy Nickerson remains a concern, will we have a more athletic but also technically raw LB key on him on each play (Devante Downs perhaps).