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Cal Football Stats: Out of the Pan and Into the Fire

Cal’s performance against USC was uninspiring. With a #5 Washington coming into town, with the CFP Committee’s slight fresh in their minds...It will be a long night and the numbers prove it.

NCAA Football: California at Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Cal got steamrolled despite the best wishes of yours truly. The fatigue combined with the thinness of our D-line, and document struggles with defending the run lead to an utter smashing of Cal.

Bill Connely

USC missed out on an additional 17.5 offensive yards by passing the ball 25 times instead of rushing the ball. Of course with each run play the effectiveness of the run decreases, yet with each additional carry USC didn’t seem to slow down on the ground.

This was exceptionally evident in the success rate split by either quarters or situations: USC was exceptionally successful in gaining the “move the sticks” yards. This kept the Cal offense off the field and the depleted defense on it.

One glimmer of hope that we can look at is the fact that our fantastic freshmen (Melquise Stovall and Demetris Robertson) have been catching more of their targets (75% and 69% respectively). This means that either we are scheming these guys to catch the ball or they are gaining more and more chemistry with Davis Webb.

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+ 40.2 13 36.3 108
Points Per Game 41.3 14 41.8 123

We can see here that the offense has slightly declined from its 6th overall spot to 13th with a small S&P+ value decline (0.6). This is probably the cause of Cal’s 10 spot decline in the overall S&P+ rankings.

Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.27 62 1.22 48 1.27
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 45.7% 30 49.2% 124 40.9%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 29.4 74 31.1 102 29.7
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.00 43 5.39 118 4.67

No difference here vis-a-vis the story we have been seeing on the field and in my column. Cal is good at defending the big play and horrible at everything else defense related. We’re proficient at moving the ball but the big plays are hard to find. We’re about avg., literally, in explosive plays.

Cal’s Offense and Defense


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 106.3 54 102.3 60 100.0
Passing Success Rate 43.6% 42 44.8% 103 40.9%
Passing IsoPPP 1.44 77 1.35 24 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 195.5 10 70.7 110 100

We’re actually a good passing defense... despite missing the following DBs:

  • Darius Allensworth,
  • Evan Rambo,
  • Trey Turner, and
  • Damariay Drew.

Each of these players was a key contributor to the defense. Whether it is by being the best pass defender (Allensworth), the most promising member of the secondary (Rambo), the most athletic safety (Turner), and our SS/LB hybrid enforcer and presumed started (Drew). This is a decent pass defense despite the lack of pressure (See the low Adj. Sack Rate).

Chad Hansen has been out for two games in a pass-happy offense and yet he still leads the receivers in targets, catches, yards, TDs, and yards per target (sans Tre Watson). Our 54th passing offense ranking is... well bad. For a pass happy offense with great weapons and arguably the best o-line it has had in years ranking 54th in passing S&P+ is just bad. Cal needs Hansen back and needs him to play well.


Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 114.0 28 89.7 109 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 49.2% 18 52.7% 125 42.5%
Rushing IsoPPP 1.02 79 1.14 94 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 114.5 21 93.7 98 100.0
Opportunity Rate 44.9% 15 45.0% 119 39.7%
Power Success Rate 77.1% 20 68.2% 69 67.7%
Stuff Rate 14.3% 12 12.7% 126 18.7%

We’re officially a running game focused team. I kid you not. When our RBs are touching the ball and our o-line is allowed to run-block we’re the 28th running game in the nation. Each of the advanced stats tell the story of a run game that is capable of generating line yards as well as RB yards.

Our run D... Ugh. Pass. It is ugly, the numbers say it is ugly. Let’s move along.

#5 University of University of Washington Huskies 8-0 (5-0, Pac-12 North) S&P+ Overall Ranking: 5


Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 42.2 4 16.5 9
Points Per Game 46.1 4 15.8 7

They are good. College football play-off good. They will be fun to watch down the road... as long as they are not playing in the Memorial Stadium.

Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.39 14 0.98 1 1.27
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 55.2% 1 37.4% 26 40.9%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 33.2 14 27.3 22 29.7
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.86 5 3.32 6 4.67

Washington in top 26 in every stat... In my short time watching college football I have yet to see a team with these statistics play. I have had glances at ‘Bama etc. but never when they are facing a team I love.

However, we need to add an addendum that was surely considered by the CFP committee: Washington played the 62nd hardest schedule per SOS, Cal plays the 23rd hardest schedule. However, even with this adjustment, S&P+ data is opponent adjusted... Hard to draw conclusions from these two pieces of info: how much does the S&P+ adjust for opposition?

Washington Offense and Defense

Cal’s Match-up with Washington’s Passing

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing S&P+ 141.9 2 131.4 7 100.0
Passing Success Rate 58.2% 1 32.3% 6 40.9%
Passing IsoPPP 1.58 38 1.02 1 1.48
Adj. Sack Rate 82.5 94 157.1 10 100

According to S&P+, Washington’s passing offense is better than Cal’s 2015 passing offense! Both by ranking and by the raw S&P+ number (2nd v. 6th, and 141.9 and 130.3). This will be quite the thing to watch, if they chose to unleash the offense against us. Unlike Cal, Washington has been able to rely on 3 receivers rather than 1 receiver to be consistent (+67.9% catch rates with 60.3% of the targets). Cal has a depleted secondary where we will most likely line up either a True Fresh in Drayden, or a walk-on in Nwokocha against a Heisman/Biletnikoff candidate John Ross. Fun.

Webb will need both of his thumb and Hansen at 100% to have a prayer against this pass D. they are top ranked in Adj. Sack Rates which means they are generating very good pass rush. This will be the key match-up for Cal. If we can keep Webb upright enough to find holes in the coverage... maybe we have a shot. I would stack Hansen, Robertson, Stovall, Muhammad, and Watson against any Washington athlete. Remember these are all numbers. Numbers aren’t destiny.

Cal’s Match-up with Washington’s Rushing

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 119.9 16 113.7 23 100.0
Rushing Success Rate 52.5% 5 42.3% 67 42.5%
Rushing IsoPPP 1.20 24 0.95 21 1.08
Adj. Line Yards 109.2 43 105.5 44 100.0
Opportunity Rate 45.7% 8 36.5% 48 39.7%
Power Success Rate 50.0% 126 65.6% 50 67.7%
Stuff Rate 14.9% 14 15.9% 108 18.7%

Cal can make some damage against the Washington run defense. Running on early downs ought to be a priority for Cal. We won’t break out a big play, however, giving Webb a 2nd and 5 or a 3rd and 2 would give him more options over the top and underneath.

If I was Petersen and Browning: 1st down = run, 2nd down = run, 3rd down = run, and by this point it is probably 4th and 1 and thus = run. This is despite the fact that the Washington power-rate is low, because they are able to gain 4.83 yards (with a long of 7) on 12 attempts on 3rd and 1-3 to go. With only 15 attempts of 3rd and 1-3 to go or 4th down plays, the sample size to too small.

Concluding Thoughts

Cal is playing against an all-world caliber foe. Even though this Washington team hasn’t beaten anyone of note (sans an ailing Oregon)... they have beaten them all in style. They are a juggernaut that I have predicted to be the #1 Pac-12 team and a CFP contender. However, I wasn’t expecting this Washington team to dominate their opposition so thoroughly. It isn’t out of the question that Cal will be its next victim.

Washington is playing against a team that is struggling to crack the wall between mediocrity of 5-7, 6-6, 7-5 seasons and the stratosphere that Washington resides in. Cal has struggled with putting away substandard teams (ex. Oregon State) or keeping leads (ex. Oregon)... but 8 games in Cal has never lacked one thing: the burning desire to win. The fact that Cal’s players have been fighting for each yard and in each play.

And a little madness is all we need on a cool November night in the California Memorial Stadium... the graveyard of ranked teams.