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Cal Football, Evans Hall Edition: Week 1 Recap and view into Week 2

After a guns blazing performance against Grambling State let's take a quick dip into Football Outsider's stats on Cal and it's Week 2 opponent San Diego State.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Post-Game Impressions

So I went to Parlay Bar with other D.C. area Cal grads to watch the first game. I was so hungry for football I barely spoke to people besides making an occasional remark and singing along the fight song for each touchdown (10 times to be exact). Overall, I really enjoyed that we went out guns blazing, from the rare 3rd and out, and an extremely efficient first offensive drive to the final drive where we took it slow.

Of course there are troubling sings, Goff was pressured during most if not all of his drop-backs, often resorting to shuffling around the traffic, taking hits, and sacks. Furthermore, besides the first drive and Khalfani Muhammad's big runs, we were consistently failing to generate meaningful rushing yards. This is especially troubling since a P5 D-I team ought to have more success rushing against an FCS team due to the sheer athleticism, size, and scheme advantage.

On the defensive side I would've liked more discipline, especially on the 80-yard touchdown run we let during the waning minutes of the game. As much as it is understandable that it was our second/third string defense, we should not be letting such lapses in concentration and bad tackling to prevail. This may seem petty, but perfection needs to be enforced whether it is the game-winning snap against Stanfurd or at a garbage time snap against Grambling State.

Post-Week 1 Numbers for Cal (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12 North)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense FEI
California 53 59 62 64

The most important thing to keep in mind about these stats is the fact that these stats are from Week 1 performances only. Which means a) a small sample size, and b) the fact that the Grambling State gameplan/flow was an unusual one. The first one implies that there will be a lot of volatility as the weeks go by. The latter, especially for the case of Cal, shows that the stats, whether positively slanted or negatively slanted against us, will change as we face more P5 opponents and as their stats are influenced by their match-ups (especially S&P+ since they are opponent adjusted).

Now to look at the rankings themselves. We can see that despite #droping70 on Grambling State Cal barely cracked the top 50th percentile of teams. This is mainly due to the fact that besides a couple of big plays, Cal struggled to produce an efficient run game against Grambling State (efficient as defined by the parameters of Football Outsiders).

Furthermore, the data does not account for the fact that Cal's starting offense and defense was not on the field for most of the game. Of course a lot of other teams ranked on the S&P+ scale also had that happen last Saturday, but now the observational data is polluted by the differences in performance by 2nd and 3rd stringers between different teams.

One thing that can inspire cautious optimism is the fact that our defense seems to be on an overall rise, or at least average in this data point. More will definitely be revealed about our defense and offense in the coming weeks.

Week 2 Opponent : San Diego State University Aztecs (1-0, 0-0 MWC West)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense FEI
SDSU 72 123 7 66

This ain't pretty from an offensive standpoint. 123 means that their offense technically is the Cal 2014 Defense of offenses. (Again, take this with a grain of salt, small sample size + Week 1 rust). However, if we look at how they performed throughout the game on offense, it isn't pretty. The starting QB Maxwell Smith pitched a 9/21 100 yard and 1 INT game against a non-scholarship FCS team. This is bad news for the Azteces. Furthermore, we need to mention a relatively bad performance by their star RB Donnal Pumphrey (that I hyped as being a danger to us) had 20 attempts for 65 yards and a TD with a long of 14 yards. Which means that he avg. 3.25 yards/attempt against an FCS opponent (2.7 yards/attempt if we remove the long of 14 yards). This is a very bad stat for SDSU if they want to rely on their rushing game. Pumphrey meet James Looney, Mustafa "Moose" Jalil, Jalen Jefferson, Davante Downs, et al. They will make you pay for each yard.

On the defensive side of the ball SDSU's defense forced a horrible game out of Anthony Lawrence, Trey Wheeler and Chris Wilson who combined for a 13/27, 109 yards (1/5th of which came from one 24 yard pass to Jonah Hodges), 0 TD, and 5 INTs. Overall this is where the talent gap was the most evident between the D-1 MWC school and an FCS team. Furthermore, the defense completely stuffed the University of San Diego rushing game for a 38 attempt, 84 yard performance with a long of 9 yards (2.2 yards/attempt). Not much to see here besides a consistent ability to pressure the QBs, force turnovers and stuff runs for little and paltry gains.

Of course the S&P+ stat ought to be opponent adjusted which means that SDSU ought to maintain it's defensive dominance over the season. That also means that their offense ought to be just as bad as a Stanfurd alumni's attempts at wit.

Compare and Contrast Time

After disconnecting myself from the Blue and gold Cool-Aid IV I can see that this will not be a cakewalk for our offense. The SDSU team is mature, is designed with its stacked and attacking 3-3-5 alignment to give us problems across the board, especially considering the trouble Grambling State gave us with their pass rush. I think that it will be essential for our offense to use quick passes into the space vacated by blitzing LBs, and with the chemistry between Jared Goff and out WR corps I can foresee us doing well. Furthermore, last week OC Tony Franklin most definitely rested Daniel Lasco to keep him fresh. If we can successfully gain yards on the ball, forcing 2nd/3rd and shorts etc. then it would neutralize the pass-rush even further.

However, I can forsee them struggling more when they have the ball against a resurrected Cal defense, especially one that has Moose and Looney as DTs. One of the keys for us will be to force the SDSU QB to beat us through the air where he has struggled against an FCS foe. At this point I doubt the SDSU starting QB will remain on the field the whole game if he replicates his abysmal performance.

Overall, I think that during the first two drives Cal will try to see what will work against SDSU's defense while completely shutting down the Aztec offense. After those two drives Tony Franklin and Jared Goff ought to settle into a rhythm and they will keep humming up and down the field until the last whistle is blown and the Victory Cannon runs out of ammo.