- One score games: Cal is now 2-0 in one score games, despite giving the ball to the opponent with enough time for a final drive to either tie or take the lead in the 4th quarter.
- Injuries: knock on wood, but Cal has not experienced a single season-ending injury, while nearly every major rival has experienced multiple injuries to players that range from important to irreplaceable.
- While there were certainly calls made by the refs on Saturday that were wrong in Washington's favor, there were more than a few that went in Cal's favor as well - a phantom roughing the passer that helped extend a Cal FG drive, a missed offensive PI on Kenny Lawler that led to another FG, and the decision to not give the ball to UW after an apparent Goff fumble, to name just a few.
- Most importantly, events in the Pac-12 continue to fall in Cal's favor. Cal's best team in at least seven years has coincided with Oregon's worst team in at least eight years. Washington State and Oregon State are dysfunctional. Arizona State's offense is broken. Stanford's defense is its weakest since at least 2009.
Two weeks ago I very scientifically estimated that there was a 2.692% chance that Cal could sneak through the chaos and win the Pac-12 North. After another two weeks of data, I'm willing to upgrade that number to a 9.626% chance. That we're even seriously entertaining the idea two years removed from 1-11 is an indication of how much has fallen in Cal's favor. I don't mean to discount all of the hard work that the players and coaching staff have put in - that they are in position to take advantage is certainly the biggest story. And dammit, it's worth getting excited about.
In-game highlight: Jared Goff connects with Bryce Treggs for TD
Jared Goff to Bryce Treggs: ON TARGET for the Cal Bears.The Bears are rolling 20-7 right now, and you can check them out on Pac-12 Networks and Pac-12.com/now!Posted by Pac-12 Conference on Saturday, September 26, 2015
J. Browning sacked by K. Kragen for 0 yds,J. Browning fumbled, recovered by Cal D. Downs http://t.co/mb7h8PQ441— Cal Sports Now (@CalSportsNow) September 26, 2015
Turnovers, and can we count on them?
First in the country in turnovers forced, tied for seventh in turnover margin. Can the suddenly opportunistic Bears keep it up?
Nah, probably not. If Cal finished the season with 42 turnovers forced (their current pace) it would be the highest per game turnover rate over the last seven years. Having said that, it's not like the turnovers that have been forced so far have been particularly fluky.
Here's my hopeful formula: Some small amount of pass rush + defenders mostly likely to be in position to make a play + Jared Goff is a turnover avoiding machine = Cal is more likely than not to end up on the plus side of the turnover ledger over the long run. Seems reasonable, no?
Cal created havoc on 7 plays, or 8.4% of Texas' plays. That's . . . bad. Like, worse than last year, when Cal created havoc on 11.5% of opponent plays.
15 havoc plays created on 55 UW offensive snaps, for a havoc rate of TWENTY-FRIGGIN'-SEVEN PERCENT! Holy smokes. I will fully admit that UW's offense has some significant flaws - an overmatched-at-times quarterback, a struggling offensive line, a lack of deadly skill position players - but that number is a jaw dropper. If Cal could produce half of that number on a week-in, week-out basis it would be a solid improvement on last year.
Game Theory Errata
Let's say you don't buy a damned word I wrote at the top about how things are falling in Cal's favor. You're convinced that Cal isn't equipped to handle a stiff upcoming schedule.
Fair enough. Even then, Cal is already 4-0, with two road wins in their pocket. They will be heavily favored in two home games against Washington State and Oregon State, and probably slight favorites over Arizona State. Even if the rest of the season went pure chalk, Cal would probably finish 7-5, more or less in line with pre-season expectations. Perhaps disappointing given how the Bears have started, but hardly a disaster either. Steal a win or two and you're looking at a pretty sweet bowl game. That's pretty solid for a realistic worst case.
If Cal, with a healthy Daniel Lasco, comes home and takes care of business against what is very likely to be the worst FBS defense the Bears will see all year, the worst case scenario doesn't look much different than an average pre-season prediction.
Nobody knows what the future holds, and that goes double for the bizarro world of college football. So all we can say is that the Bears have done everything right to put themselves in position for something special. And if there has ever been a team that seemed custom built to thrive in the chaos of a weird, unpredictable season, it would be the Sonny-Dykes-era Cal Bears.