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Cal Football Advanced Stats: Senior Game Day v. UCLA

The better coach you are, the better you manage the game, and the better recruiter you are.

NCAA Football: Stanford at California
As a reminder that they still have The Axe, and we don’t.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As much as a loathe to put the picture on our glorious page, I chose it to serve as a reminder to us that we will not win the Big Game as long as HC Dykes is in charge of the program.

I have looked at the numbers for too long and seen enough games to know that this version of the Cal team reached its zenith at the Air Force game when the Number 1 Overall Pick celebrated a 8-5 win with the 13th ranked S&P+ offense.

This year’s Big Game marks the beginning of the end of the Sonny Dykes era of Cal football. Barring a stunning reversal of fortunes on defense and overall game management the following seasons will have this following statistical profile:

  • Top 25 offense, mostly efficient due to the quick strike pass that spreads the defenses horizontally. And an underutilized run game.
  • Bottom 25 defense, under-recruited front 7 fueled by JuCo players who need roughly 1 year to get into the system.

Anyhow, enough of my ranting. We’re up to the Furd numbers:

Bill Connelly
  • If we take away Christian McCaffrey’s 90 yard run his avg. goes down to 6.47 YPC. Which isn’t that bad since we would’ve held him to his yearly avg.
  • Davis Webb had a relatively good game, 400 yards. There could’ve been more yards to be earned: both Hansen and Rivera only had a 50% catch rate per target. Some of them were uncatchable balls but I wonder if their extra targets would’ve been better off if thrown to other players.
  • Cal, again, failed to run the ball: 75 pass to 24 run ratio. 3 to 1 ratio. This was the case in the first half: 23 passess to 13 runs.

California Golden Bears 4-7 (2-6, Pac-12 North) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 65


Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 39.1 12 39.0 121
Points Per Game 37.2 22 45.5 127

Cal fell down 7 notches on the S&P+ scale. Why? On one hand the offense has stayed in its position. On the other hand the defense fell another 2 spots. Thus I present to you all, the nations’ bottom 8 defense. You are correct we are worse than:

  • #108 Hawai’i
  • #92 Lousiana Tech (HC Dykes’ former team)
  • #80 Rutgers, yes, the same Rutgers that allowed 224 points against Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State (while scoring 0).
Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.26 67 1.28 79 1.27
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 45.3% 30 50.3% 128 40.9%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 29.4 70 29.8 87 29.6
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.66 50 5.24 123 4.44
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -2.87 95 Turnover Luck (PPG):

We are the best... at being, literally, the worst team from an efficiency standpoint on defense. It means that 50% of time the opponent will get the “move the sticks” yards. Furthermore, once the opponent is within our 40 we’re the 5th worst in the nation. 5.24 points means that assuming the opponent always goes for and gets the PAT:

Cal’s defense allows 56% Touchdown to 44% FG rate.

This is bad.

Cal’s Offense and Defense


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 112.1 38 93.5 89 100.0
Passing Success Rate 43.8% 39 46.3% 115 40.9%
Passing IsoPPP 1.45 70 1.46 70 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 228 4 60.9 118 100

We can see here that not much has changed from the previous week. Cal pass attack has stopped producing big plays since the OSU game. We cannot blame the protection scheme since the veteran and wasted o-line ranks 4th in the nation. The passing defense gets a passable grade since opposing QBs are under no duress at all.


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 112.2 30 88.6 109 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 47.8% 25 53.5% 128 42.9%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.98 105 1.15 97 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 115.9 16 91.1 104 100.0
Opportunity Rate 43.6% 22 45.4% 120 39.8%
Power Success Rate 68.2% 59 73.1% 93 68.3%
Stuff Rate 16.6% 31 12.2% 127 18.7%

Cal runs the ball at a rate similar to my match-rate on Tinder.

Which is a shame since our o-line as well as our RBs have done a good job doing what they can with the touches they have had throughout the season. It has become very frustrating to watch our offense underutilize the run game.

Cal run defense... lol. Let’s move along.

University of California’s Southern Campus Los Angeles Bruins 4-7 (2-6, Pac-12 South) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 55

Cal Win Expectancy: 47%


Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 27.5 76 22.5 25
Points Per Game 26.3 80 26.7 56

They are similar to the Furd in this overall profile: decent uninspiring offense and strong defense. The only issue being is that the UCLA offense’s numbers have been buoyed by the Rosen one’s numbers.

Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.31 46 1.13 11 1.27
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 37.7% 115 39.3% 38 40.9%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 29.5 66 32.0 109 29.6
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.09 100 4.17 43 4.44
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -2.78 94 Turnover Luck (PPG):

The UCLA offense sputters in within the opponent’s 40 yard line. Which is great since they will be facing us and this will be great since Stanfurd also struggled within the 40 and yet it didn’t have issues scoring in the second half.

UCLA Offense and Defense

Cal’s Match-up with UCLA Passing

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 99.6 70 120.4 14 100.0
Passing Success Rate 38.8% 88 36.5% 28 40.9%
Passing IsoPPP 1.56 40 1.23 3 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 137.6 25 101.5 61 100

UCLA can’t pass the ball well. They can get it over the top but it can’t get people “move the stick” yards. Cal will face Mike Fafaul who with the same # of passess has fewer yards and more interceptions than the Rosen one with 2 fewer yards per attempt.

Their pass defense will give us fits especially with their ability to shut down both the big and small yard plays. For Davis Webb this will be a challenge to fit the ball and keep the chains moving.

Cal’s Match-up with UCLA Rushing

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 81.1 123 116.3 22 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 35.8% 120 42.2% 61 42.9%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.89 124 1.03 44 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 83.5 124 112.3 24 100.0
Opportunity Rate 29.8% 124 35.2% 29 39.8%
Power Success Rate 55.2% 123 64.2% 42 68.3%
Stuff Rate 28.0% 128 16.3% 102 18.7%

UCLA is like me: can’t run. Like literally, not a single of their run offense categories is better than 8th worst in the nation. They are the Cal run defense of run offenses. Their 5* Rb Soso Jambo has been disappointing with his snaps: with a 3.9 YPC he hasn’t produced much. Of course this is largely due to the fact that the offensive line has underperformed in generating line-yards. This should worry Cal since the defensive line is too shallow to sustain too many run plays.

Cal’s lack of desire to run the ball will probably backfire on the offense since we can gather up all the “move the sticks” yardage on the ground against a formidable UCLA defense. Looking at their low stuff rate but high overall run defense we can expect a low volatility run game, but this low volatility can be the difference between 3rd and 10 situations and 3rd and 3. The latter being much more manageable for Webb and co.

Final Thoughts

This is a much more winnable game for Cal than the numbers suggest. With Fafaul at QB UCLA’s passing S&P+ numbers aren’t as impressive as they look at first glance. Of course... we are Cal. And a lot of things can happen against a defense that is depleted like I am at 2am in the morning after Cal games (wooo go East Coast Bears!).

Cal needs to keep the 123rd worst rushing offense in the nation looking roughly like a 70th worst rushing offense range in terms of performance. With that we need to force Fafaul to make mistakes passing with more complex schemes and some blitzes to exploit his inexperience and inability to rely on the ground game.

For Cal’s offense this will be a tough sled. UCLA’s defense will be similar to Furd’s and thus will have to play another good game to close-up at home.

Finally, if you do have a chance, go to the game.

This is for many players their last game as a Cal bear. These young men have represented our university in an exemplary way, a way that befits the reputation of the university and its alumni.

(However, I am still bound by my geography to cheer from the East Coast).