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Cal Football Evans Hall Stats: Week 8 v. USC

Once full on Roast Duck we shall make haste unto the city of Troy. Let’s hope this time it won’t take us 40 years to win at the Colosseum.

NCAA Football: Oregon at California Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

When Cal was up by 20 in half-time some Cal sports bloggers started revelling in some gloating that needed to be done after losing to Oregon for 8 years in a row.

And I get it, we were steam-rolling the Oregon defense in the 1st half, and I thought we would continue to do so since Oregon seemed unable to stop much on the ground, I thought if they were to put 7 in the box, we’d still win despite being outmatched 5-6 to 7 in the box. And there were some scheme things that other bloggers mentioned that would’ve paid-off and did.

Webb’s OT TD came-off a zone-read play.

For me. I was exceptionally nervous even during half-time, because this is what Cal does. We can blow a 20 point lead or we can overcome a 20 point lead in 8 minutes. And yeah, I was so despondent about the team at the time I was calling for HC Dykes’ head:

Oregon State was a poorly coached and management game. Oregon was nearly fumbled away in the 3rd. Yet, it was fun, we won against someone who I didn’t expect. Even 20 up I expected a close-one... Anyhow. Let’s get to the math.

Bill Connelly

Some thoughts:

  • Cal ran the ball, and ran it well. 53% of the time we got the right amount of run yardage. The passing game was a little less efficient at a clip of 46%. Both of these numbers are way above the national avg. and above Oregon on all of the measures (sans passing downs).
  • Oregon is really good at preventing the big play and we didn’t get any. Each of our explosive measures being sub-par. This can be a combination of reasons: Webb being less than 100% in the passing game and with Hansen being out.
  • Tre Watson, and Khalfani Muhammad ran the ball well, both hit +5.5 ypc and those are Jamaal Charles numbers (his 5.5 ypc is a career highest).
  • With Chad Hansen out Webb had to rely on targeting his other weapons, and he did so with great-success: 3 of his WRs split 10 targets.

Final Note: The Probability that Cal goes 6-6 and above is at 71%. This is because Cal’s win probabilities against the last 3 games are 45%, 61%, and 57%. We are favored against UCLA and Stanfurd and a toss-up against WSU.

University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears 4-3 (2-1, Pac-12 North) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 44


Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 40.8 6 35.2 106
Points Per Game 43.7 9 41.3 123

After the win against the Ducks Cal’s overall S&P+ moved up by 10. This is due to the fact that the offense moved up by 4 spots and the defense moved up by 6.

Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.28 53 1.19 38 1.27
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 45.9% 30 47.2% 119 40.9%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 29.9 63 30.7 97 29.7
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.10 41 5.56 122 4.67
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -1.03 84 Turnover Luck (PPG):

We’re holding steady on this front, the lack of explosiveness on a 118 play game caused our explosiveness numbers to suffer. I don’t expect it to creep-up anytime soon due to the injury to Webb and Hansen. Although we do have a 6’0” WR who runs a 4.3...

Cal’s Offense and Defense


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 107.1 53 102.4 60 100.0
Passing Success Rate 43.9% 40 42.2% 79 40.9%
Passing IsoPPP 1.45 74 1.35 31 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 177.3 17 69.1 110 100

With Webb being unable to hail a hitchhike with his injured thumb, the Cal passing offense has suffered a setback when it comes to both cranking out efficient plays as well as the explosive plays. We can’t put any of this on the pass-protection since they are providing him with the 17th best adjusted sack rate. Some of this maybe due to Webb’s quick release, however, many times it was the o-line winning their match-ups and giving him and the WRs time to have the plays develop.

The passing defense has been a relative strength for Cal’s defense. I say relative because unless Cal’s offense is capable of starting hot the pass-d will continue to face very few passing snaps and USC will just use their run-game to run away.


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 116.3 30 94.5 88 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 49.3% 19 51.0% 120 42.4%
Rushing IsoPPP 1.05 70 1.09 75 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 118.3 17 92.8 102 100.0
Opportunity Rate 45.1% 13 43.4% 110 39.7%
Power Success Rate 75.8% 24 66.7% 53 68.0%
Stuff Rate 14.0% 11 13.0% 124 18.7%

Cal football twitter has combined its collective willpower to channel one message to OC Spavital. I think he has subconsciously been hearing our voices to...

Why? Statistically speaking Cal has been able to run the ball efficiently, effectively, and with nasty intent. When we think about the run game: every single advanced statistic indicates that the offensive line is giving the run-game every opportunity to succeed. The best one is the opp. rate at 45.1% which is top of the nation and it means that 45.1% of the time our RBs are given space to run. 49.3% of the time the RBs get the efficient yards, which is an amazing number.

What is not an amazing number is the Cal run defense. Terrible at defending the efficient run. 120th in Success Rate, more importantly 51.0% of the time a run will get the necessary yards to keep the chains moving... That’s not good, because this sets-up short 2nd and 3rd downs and those are deadly for us.

University of Southern California Trojans 4-3 (3-2, Pac-12 North) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 20


Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 33.8 35 22.1 21
Points Per Game 28.3 71 24.0 43

What else is new? USC has a good offense and a great defense. Whoopee. They may not be reaching the potential they had in the past, but they are still very good.

Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.19 99 1.27 76 1.27
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 46.7% 22 37.5% 31 40.9%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 30.5 48 26.6 14 29.7
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.60 76 4.80 74 4.67
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -1.16 87 Turnover Luck (PPG):

They are efficient. They will run/pass the ball well, inch-by-inch play-by-play, they will probably scrape away at the defense with quick plays and then try to hit it over the top.

The biggest mismatch for Cal is the fact that USC does not give the efficient yards. This is an issue because Cal often uses these to set-up future plays. Like Leland Wong wrote in his column: tendencies and breaking them can lead to huge plays for the offense. Cal could try to hit the home-run, however, with Hansen gone I don’t think there is a weapon that Webb can rely on that can give us that play.

USC Offense and Defense

Cal’s Match-up with USC’s Passing

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 129.4 13 111.4 29 100.0
Passing Success Rate 49.0% 13 37.4% 41 40.9%
Passing IsoPPP 1.36 99 1.42 53 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 187 16 76.7 98 100

USC’s passing offense is a similar beast to Cal’s 2015 passing game. Not a lot of explosion but is capable of getting those chunk yards through the air. Cal can try to disrupt the pass especially since USC passes on 53.5% of the standard downs. Will DC Kaufman be more aggressive on the line and play more press. However, this strategy might backfire with Darius Allensworth injured, Josh Drayden is a True Frosh. and Franklin having a penchant for overly aggressive play.

We do not generate enough pressure against the 16th ranked pass-pro o-line (Per. Adj. Sack Rate, which is a rank above Cal’s so imagine Webb’s pass-pro pocket) to force errors, and we’re just adequate when faced with the efficient pass-play. Our DB’s will have to win battles against Smith-Schuster, Rogers, Mitchell JR. and Burnett (and we’re not even talking about their TEs!)

USC’s pass defense will probably lean on its strength in stopping the efficient play. The secondary succeeds in stopping that and once in a while giving-up the deep play. With Hansen out I don’t see Cal’s passing offense getting home-run ball unless we can get D.Robertson going deep.

Cal’s Match-up with USC’s Rushing

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 114.9 33 123.0 15 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 43.9% 55 37.6% 32 42.4%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.97 106 1.14 94 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 116.4 19 115.3 24 100.0
Opportunity Rate 38.1% 88 34.0% 26 39.7%
Power Success Rate 56.5% 112 75.0% 104 68.0%
Stuff Rate 19.7% 83 17.7% 88 18.7%

USC’s rush offense has seen better days. They have 3 RBs with 50+ carries, but only one of them, Justin Davis, have 5+ YPC. Top this off with a QB that can run with the ball in his hands. Cal will have it’s hands full. The D-line, thin as it is, will come-off a 6 day break after a 2OT game to play on the road against a team that has had 13 days of rest. Awesome. If USC is smart, they will keep running the ball between the tackles against the terrible Cal rushing defense. Cal can’t get any penetration in the run defense (Stuff Rate: 13%, good for 124th! in the nation).

On the flip-side, Cal’s run defense will face a pretty decent USC rush defense that limits opposing offenses to 2-4 yards a play (high Power Success Rate + low Opp. Rate by a defense = allowing 2-4 yard run plays). Without Vic Enwere Khalfani’s and Tre’s usage rates have only gone up. This is worrying since they have posted back to back +100 yard games and, again, we’re facing a short-week, away from home. Have I stated how much the Pac-12 has screwed Cal over with this schedule, right?

One encouraging spot is the short yardage situation. I think Cal ought to go for it on 4th and short every time, especially with our RBs and USC’s inability to stop the short yards (bad Power Success Rate + bad Stuff Rate). Cal can also hope for a big run play here and there to spark the offense into all out hurry-up mode. USC’s defense on Standard Downs against explosive plays isn’t good at all.

Concluding Thoughts

This isn’t a good match-up for Cal. Short week with USC’s defensive strengths match-up against Cal’s offensive strengths we will have to overcome the odds. Another worrying thing is the fact that Cal’s offense starts the 3rd Q slowly, which works well with USC’s 3rd Q defense which terrible. Generally USC defense isn’t great in the second half, but in the first it is a world beater. This isn’t true with it’s offense that is consistently good across all quarters and all of the downs (per S&P+).

There aren’t many holes that Cal can exploit in USC’s offense or defense. If Cal can hold-onto USC and be within a TD by half-time it can use the documented slump of USC’s defense in the second half to mount a comeback USC. Cal will probably have to force a higher success rate against USC than USC allows through the air to keep the run offense viable.

On defense Cal has to hope for only one USC player to break-out on the ground rather than two. Hope to get some lucky breaks on a couple of drives to give the offense time and room for life.

For the first time this season I am very skeptical about the chances Cal has against an opponent. USC’s strengths and weaknesses match-up against Cal’s way too well, even its weaknesses are match-up against Cal’s weaknesses. Yet, one thing that is not captured by these advanced stats is the fact that Cal is capable of wildness and madness. These stats do not capture the madness that is #Pac12AfterDark.

Who knows? Maybe Cal will capture just enough of its quirkiness that has defined us not just as a football program but also as a university to put a quake into the overpriced USC boatshoes, put a wrinkle on the neatly pressed polo-shirts, and maybe, just maybe, send those trust-fund kids back crying to their butlers.