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Evans Hall: Will Cardiac Bears Strike Again?

Numbers say: Not a chance. However, we are Cal and we can’t have nice things such as good heart health or easy games.

NCAA Football: Utah at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the game and how it played out: we shouldn’t have won. There many numbers from the advanced stats that indicated a Utah win. But here we are victorious due to a last minute goal-line stand with the game of the line.

Again let’s look at the advanced statistics associated with the game itself:

Bill Connelly

I think this is the magic of college football: odds and numbers maybe against our favor, but you can upend that with a gutsy call on the 1 yard line. We maximized every opportunity we had in the opponent’s part of the field (like literally, 7 points in a non 2 point conversion world).

On another advanced stats note: Davis Webb has been rated as the #3 QB by Pro-Football Focus. They highlighted his 2.31 second time to throw which is really quick. This allows for any issues in protection to be covered up by Webb’s quick decision making.

University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears 3-2 (1-1, Pac-12 North) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 53


Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 41.0 12 35.7 107
Points Per Game 42.0 19 38.6 117
Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.40 30 1.18 36 1.28
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 45.7% 35 45.6% 107 40.9%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 29.0 86 29.1 70 29.6
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.00 52 5.68 119 4.72
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -0.66 84 Turnover Luck (PPG):

Despite dropping 28 points on 47 plays on the #21 ranked Utah defense, for whom 28 points was the most they allowed all year long, Cal offense dropped 3 spots in the S&P+ rankings. I think this has more to do with the fact that some teams had a better offensive performance over the week.

Cal’s offense in the Five Factors continues to impress, even with the Avg. FP declining due to the punt returners averaging, I kid you not, 0.3-0.5 yards per punt return... Overall, this offense is balanced in its capacity to make the efficient and the explosive play.

Cal’s defense has been surprisingly good at limiting the big play on the ground and in the air. However, I think it is an artifact of playing two of the less explosive offenses in college football (ASU #94, and Utah #113 in IsoPPP). The defensive tanking is dragged down by the defenses’ inability to stop the efficient play... AKA as it looks right now, it is a true bend-and-by-god-don’t-break defense.

Cal’s Offense and Defense


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 106.6 56 110.0 40 100.0
Passing Success Rate 47.2% 28 42.5% 81 40.9%
Passing IsoPPP 1.55 56 1.40 47 1.50
Adj. Sack Rate 156.2 25 107.5 58 100

Read this data with the fact that Cal runs on 39.5% of the standard downs, and 21.6% of times on passing downs. What this means is that Mr. Webb’s arm will get very tired at this rate. It was noticed by all of the Cal football bloggers: we need to run the dang ball (Nam Le and Scott Chang have made this very evident on their remarkable podcast).

And that is in my opinion OK as long as we’re taking getting the right Success Rate from him and the receivers. We can also see the effect of the 2.31 second time to pass rate: Cal’s offensive line ranks as the 25th in the Adjusted Sack Rate.

On the passing defense side, we’re holding steady on most measures, although dipping a little bit on the Passing Success Rate defense side. This will continue to be a challenge as Evan Rambo is out for the year and he provided a physical presence in the middle of the field. I think Jaylinn Hawkins will provide the necessary athleticism to the position, however, he may not have the experience needed to read and react rather than read, think, then reacting. The OSU game as well as the coming BYE week should give him enough prep for the final stretch of the season to not be a liability in coverage.

I have to give to Luke Rubenzer who with each game has shown to be the most technically sound and savvy Safety on the field.


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 106.1 59 99.7 74 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 42.6% 64 48.1% 112 41.7%
Rushing IsoPPP 1.08 59 1.03 48 1.09
Adj. Line Yards 113.2 31 98.3 80 100.0
Opportunity Rate 41.8% 42 40.7% 93 39.6%
Power Success Rate 68.8% 56 67.7% 70 68.2%
Stuff Rate 15.4% 23 13.0% 120 18.4%

Not much has changed by the Cal rushing offense since the previous review of the S&P+ numbers since we didn’t run the ball all that much throughout the game. What is encouraging to me is the low low stuff-rate (15.4% | 23rd in 2016, vis a vis 18.9% | 55th in 2015) and a relatively better Power Success Rate (68.8% | 56th in 2016, and 59.1% | in 2015).

What is worrying is the fact that we have a low stuff rate, which means poor DT penetration and containment by DEs/OLBs on outside runs. Furthermore, especially in the case of the Utah game, the run defense is unable to stop the drip-drip-drip of the opposing run defense. I don’t think this will change, and this will be the nail that opposing offenses will hit on first downs to make their second and third downs more management ( explains the 63.6% run rate on Standard Runs against us).

Matchup against: Oregon State Beavers 1-3 (0-1, Pac-12 North) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 96


Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 20.7 116 29.1 65
Points Per Game 22.5 106 30.5 87
Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.28 65 1.15 24 1.28
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 32.2% 126 47.0% 114 40.9%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 31.4 39 27.9 47 29.6
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.50 87 5.08 90 4.72
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -1.61 97 Turnover Luck (PPG):

Beavers are not good on offense. They have one of the worst success rates in the nation, failing to obtain the needed efficient yards at a 10% lower clip than Cal’s offense. Furthermore, they have an uninspiring explosiveness rate and can only find solace in the the field position.

The defense isn’t great either, and yet, it is better than Cal’s! They aren’t great at limiting the efficient game, which should play into our strengths on the offense with the occasional deep bomb to Hansen/Robertson.

Oregon State’s Offense and Defense


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 73.4 124 109.9 41 100.0
Passing Success Rate 30.9% 124 42.4% 79 40.9%
Passing IsoPPP 1.15 123 1.45 67 1.50
Adj. Sack Rate 60.9 116 98.4 70 100

There is a reason that I am thinking Darius Allensworth will just get a handful of snaps this game: the Beaver’s passing offense is putrid. Bottom of the nation in efficiency, explosiveness, and in the sack-rate. Furthermore, neither QB is cracking 56% completion rating. I don’t think this will change when they face Cal. I don’t think that the Cal passing defense will have issues sans a drive or two, unless OSU suddenly revamps and retools the whole offense against Cal. (But hey, we have some magical property of making opposing QBs look like Heisman level QBs).

The passing defense facing Cal will be nothing compared to Utah’s and we can expect some resistance here. The match-up compared to Cal’s passing offense is very favorable for us. We will able to nibble at the passing yards and then BOOM Hasen on a Go route.


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 109.5 46 85.5 114 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 34.1% 118 51.7% 123 41.7%
Rushing IsoPPP 1.44 6 0.89 15 1.09
Adj. Line Yards 110 44 101.5 62 100.0
Opportunity Rate 39.4% 70 45.4% 117 39.6%
Power Success Rate 60.0% 95 66.7% 56 68.2%
Stuff Rate 16.5% 44 16.2% 99 18.4%

This is the oddity here with the OSU rushing offense. It is very inefficient, it barely gets the efficient yards, and yet once in awhile they will knock out a big one. And it isn’t because they aren’t running the ball all that much. Their RBs and QBs combine for roughly the same about of runs as Cal’s offense. Some of the rushing competency can be attributed to JR QB Darell Garretson’s 10 YPC. Besides that, there is a pair of RBs that split carries roughly 2-1 with their big back Ryan Nall taking the majority of the snaps. His spell, Artavis Pierce (awesome name) is the smaller, younger back who will probably be the RB of the future for OSU has more YPC.

Cal’s RBs will face a very soft front that prevents the big play... by allowing over 50% of rushing plays be efficient. This has to do with the fact that the Beaver’s two CBs, and two Safeties combine for a whopping 36.6% of the tackles!!

I think if there is any game for HC Dykes and OC Spavital to establish the run game as a viable threat for opponents in the future, if there was one game for the offense to put on the tape of the Oregons, UCLAs, SCs, and Stanfurds to make them respect the run: this would be it.

Final Thoughts

This is going to be an interesting match-up for Cal. On paper this is a low-stress game with no last second swings in momentum...

And yet Avi himself projects a relatively close game in Corvallis.

I think Cal is going to win by passing the ball efficiently, a more balanced offense with Vic and Tre running past the D-line and into the arms of the DBs over and over again. OSU will probably try and fail to pass the ball through the air and will have to run the ball. Cal’s LB’s will have to keep a keen eye on the QBs who can run and let the D-line do its job.

Cal wins in a way that will not induce heart-attacks across Bear Territory... or so I hope.