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Cal Football Advanced Stats: THE BIG GAME

And here we are, 4-6, and yet it feels worse than 2013’s 1-13.

NCAA Football: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Well here we are. Cal yet again was able to play in a way that made me want to shut down my TV and not check the score till the next morning. When I woke up... it was worse. How bad was it? According to Football Study Hall Cal’s last three games Cal performed at a:

  • 21 percentile level against USC,
  • 25 percentile level against Washington, and
  • 19 percentile level against Wazzu.

Each of them giving Cal a win expectancy of 0%, 0%, and 1%. That’s bad. We’re bad. And it is Big Game week and $tanfurd has been able to find its groove. When Cal beat Oregon we played at a 38th percentile level, last week when ‘Furd played them... they played them at a 75th percentile level.

Bill Connelly

Yet again, the game was out of reach 41% of the game. Overall Cal had an above avg. offensive performance, but it was absolute trash on defense. How trash? Wazzu’s Rushing success rate is 74%. That is 74% of the runs gained the “move the sticks” yards. How did they achieve that level?

Gerard Wicks averaged, wait for it, 14.22 yards per carry. That’s bad. How bad? That is as many yards as Demetrius Robertson had per target in this game and 2 more yards per catch than CHAD HANSEN. Chad Hansen is a number 1 receiver and a top notch wideout for a passing focused offense.

What else, something positive: the best defensive player for the Cal defense and in the game is Khairi Vanderbilt.

California Golden Bears 4-5 (2-5, Pac-12 North) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 58

Cal’s Offense and Defense

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 39.7 13 38.5 119
Points Per Game 37.8 21 45.6 127

Cal has a 21.3% chance at going 6-6. So with the results of the election... Cal is winning the Big Game and the UCLA game and is making this season Great Again.


Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.28 58 1.26 71 1.27
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 45.3% 30 50.3% 127 41.1%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 29.9 57 29.6 81 29.6
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.63 60 5.26 124 4.44
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -3.16 97 Turnover Luck (PPG):

List of things we’re good at: moving the ball 3-5 yards when needed.

List of things we’re decent at: explosiveness of the offense, finishing drives in the 40, preventing explosive plays, field position.

List of things we’re bad, and by bad I mean “Taking Physics 7A, Physics 7B, Chem 1A, Math 1B, Econ 1 and 12 pointless consulting clubs AT THE SAME TIME” bad: Defending the efficient pass and defending the endzone.


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 112.3 37 96.8 74 100.0
Passing Success Rate 43.5% 41 46.7% 117 41.1%
Passing IsoPPP 1.48 57 1.43 60 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 200.1 8 64.7 114 100

We’re very good at protecting Davis Webb’s pocket.

And that’s about it.

We’re slightly above average with other offensive stats. And well. Let’s move on the defensive side: with the sudden rash of injuries we’re basically starting the guy who asked “are you interested in Business” to Coach Dykes on Sproul and he responded said “Walk with me.” Lo and behold he’s now starting for Cal as a cornerback this weekend and all he wanted is to get someone to come to a presentation by some consulting company.

And this is not even including our pass-rush that is so anemic, you’d need to smelt down the Iron Throne, and inject it right into the veins of the Cal pass-rush.


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 112.7 32 89.2 108 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 48.4% 20 53.3% 128 42.8%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.98 102 1.13 94 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 118.3 12 91 101 100.0
Opportunity Rate 44.0% 15 45.7% 121 39.7%
Power Success Rate 69.0% 56 71.4% 82 68.2%
Stuff Rate 16.2% 26 12.6% 126 18.7%

We run the ball very well. We won’t gain the big chunks, but our run game will keep our drives alive. This is mostly due how good our offensive line is. When we combine the adjusted sack percentage and the run game line based stats: we’re wasting the offensive line this season and Jared Goff must be looking at Davis Webb’s pocket and the run game and is a little jealous.

Jared Goff looking at the o-line

Our run defense: lol. We are literally the worst run defense in the nation in defending the efficient run. Add the terrible stuff rate, and opportunity rate and we’re very much NOT in business.

#24 Leland Stanfurd Junior University Cardinal 7-3 (5-3, Pac-12 North) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 46

Cal Win Expectancy: 44%


Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 26.7 85 21.9 23
Points Per Game 23.1 107 19.4 14

Furd is like the funhouse mirror of Cal. Terrible offense with a good defense.

Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.23 82 1.29 89 1.27
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 41.4% 78 38.8% 34 41.1%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 32.6 17 26.5 14 29.6
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.75 117 3.90 28 4.44
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -1.23 84 Turnover Luck (PPG):
ACTUAL -1 70

Stanfurd has been able to force a great field position for its offense and defense. Stanfurd can get the ball down within the 40 yards of the endzone and then they falter. This is probably due to the fact that Christian McCaffrey being out for a big chunk of the season.

The defense is stereotypically good to decent. The defense is capable of stuffing away the efficient play but then it lets the big play happen.

Furd Offense and Defense

Cal’s Match-up with Furd Passing

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 93.2 91 111.0 36 100.0
Passing Success Rate 39.7% 81 36.6% 30 41.1%
Passing IsoPPP 1.15 126 1.56 106 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 54.9 124 152.2 11 100

Cal needs to,

drop a safety in the box, keep an eye on McCaffrey, and play one-on-one on the outside against the 91st passing offense (with the 126th explosive passing offense and 81st efficient passing offense). This is how we can win on the offense. We need to dare them to pass the ball. We will have to keep JJ Arcega-Whiteside in our eyesight: a third of his catches went for a TD.

Cal will also struggle to thrown the ball around... unless we’re going deep. Stanford is bad at defending the big play. Cal will have to play strength on strength against Furd’s pass-rush. As long as we can keep Webb up, we can produce through the air.

Cal’s Match-up with Furd Rushing

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 118.1 13 114.7 27 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 42.7% 71 41.3% 54 42.8%
Rushing IsoPPP 1.29 9 1.01 33 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 115.8 20 111.2 28 100.0
Opportunity Rate 40.1% 66 40.6% 81 39.7%
Power Success Rate 63.3% 88 70.4% 77 68.2%
Stuff Rate 15.9% 20 14.3% 119 18.7%

This is why we will have to stack the box, and stack it hard. We might have to play in basically a 4-4-3 with a safety near the linebacker position. What will happen is that once McCaffrey breaks into the secondary we’ll need to gang tackle him. He will probably be spelled by Bryce Love who was racking up over a yard per carry more than McCaffrey. So that’ll be fun.

Again, the Cal offense will have to battle strength on strength. The o-line will have to fight a formidable run defense with a d-line that stops a lot of plays cold, but with no penetration. Cal has to persistent with the ball. We can get enough rush “move the sticks” yards to keep the offense in the field. This will be an intense fight. If Cal can win this battle we will be in the game.

Concluding Thoughts

I have been a pessimist when it comes to Cal football. Cal needs to go deep and exploit the vulnerability on the explosive plays against Furd, it has to balance it out with running the ball even against a tough d-line. The offense will have to wake up really quickly and hit hard.

On defense... we will have to stack the box the same way teams parked the bus against Germany in the 2014 World Cup. We need to force Furd to pass the ball or else Christian McCaffrey will feast. And we remember what happened last time we played.

The best indicator of how the the game will turn out are two things:

  • Cal stacks the box against Furd and the number of passing attempts > rushing attempts.
  • Cal goes deep early and the offensive line holds-up early on in the game.