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Cal Football Advanced Stats: An Evans Hall Analysis of Trends and Forces

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Growth and change of a team can be measured various ways. In this section I will focus on what conclusions we can draw from the trends and forces of Cal football.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

First and foremost we need to make an essential caveat about the offensive production. With the offensive coordinator change to, allegedly, Jake Spavital from the three year OC Tony Franklin. What we need to understand is that the 2016 season will be different and will not obey the trends of the 2014-2015 years.

When we are dealing with a change in the offensive coordinator we need to worry about the shift the macro level game play by the players: what game-planning emphasis is going to happen and what type of practices/drills/film room points we are going to make during the process of preparing for each game.

The Big Picture

First for broad reference this the chart of data from Football Outsiders since Football Study Hall does not have 2014 data available.

2014 2015
Rec. 5-7 8-5
2ndO Wins (Diff) 4.7 (-0.3) 7.9 (-0.1)
S&P+(Percentile) 50.90% 76.00%
S&P+ (Margin) 0.3 9.9
Rk 61 34
Off. S&P+ 35.2 40.5
Rk 30 13
Def. S&P+ 34.9 30.6
Rk 108 84
SOS 0.4 0.7
Rk 48 37
Wtd. S&P+ 2.5 5.5
Rk 57 51

All across the board the team improved. The team moved from and avg. team into the range of a pretty good team. However, the weighted S&P+ didn't move all that much which means that the team faltered at the tail-end of the season. This is a disquieting trends which can either be caused by: a) injuries and the difference between the starters and back-ups being large, b) teams were able to key onto the team's tempo and schemes.


General Passing Stats

S&P+ Offense
2014 2015
Off. S&P+ 35.2 40.3
Rk 30 13
Rushing S&P+ 109.9 112.6
Rk 41 25
Passing S&P+ 121.1 127.3
Rk 23 9
SD S&P+ 111.7 118.5
Rk 31 15
PD S&P+ 133.8 137.2
Rk 13 8
Success Rt+ 111.2 118.6
Rk 31 11
IsoPPP+ 126.2 127.1
Rk 19 9
Redzone S&P+ 107.3 N/A
Rk 47 N/A
Success Rate 45.20% 49.90%
Rk 33 6
IsoPPP 0.94 1.33
Rk 20 31
Adj. Run Pct. 40.50% 38.40%
Rk 117 125
Adj. Pace -1.9 2.4
Rk 25 35
FP+ 96 N/A
Rk 108 N/A

Here we have a upward trend in all of the major characteristics of the offense. On the ground and in the air we were able to generate, despite not having as many points on the board, statistically speaking, the 2014 team would've not have been able to replicate their success in the 2015 year. Of course this analysis hinges on the fact the FBS as a whole did not weaken and that it remained more or less the same (ie. #25 team in S&P+ in 2014 is similar to its 2015 equivalent).

On the offense the team were top 10 in all major offensive statistics in 2015 up from being top 30-ish in 2014. This shows that despite the perceived struggles on offense we were quote efficient and high performing team. Therefore, the fact that the offensive struggles we saw on the field maybe a function of the defenses we faced rather than the team's offense struggling.

All of these things are great! However, one stat that really jumped out at me is the fact that our ISOPPP+ increased despite struggles in generating explosive plays by either run or pass. Further, it indicates that once we adjust for opponents, our offense was pretty effective in creating explosive plays. So why there is such a divide between ISOPPP from Football Study Hall and ISOPPP+ from Football Outsiders? Maybe it is because the rankings from the former are not adjusted by team by team? This was explained by the ISOPPP comparison and we can see that the adjustment helped the team's data.

Re: Offensive Line Stats

Offensive Line
2014 2015
Adj. LY 107 108.8
Rk 44 33
Std. Downs Line Yards 2.97 2.99
Rk 61 50
Pass. Downs Line Yards 4.24 3.84
Rk 3 14
Opp. Rate 41.70% 44.30%
Rk 34 13
Power Success Rate 66.70% 59.10%
Rk 66 108
Stuff Rate 18.20% 18.90%
Rk 49 55
Adj Sack Rate 122.4 162.3
Rk 37 19
Std. Downs Sack Rate 2.60% 4.10%
Rk 17 48
Pass. Downs Sack Rate 7.70% 4.40%
Rk 72 14

Offensive line play in 2015 improved as time went by. It got better once we abandoned the VSPP system and moved towards a kick-step one. The former stipulated that the O-Line move backwards to create space between themselves and the pass-rush while as other other did not yield as many yards away without contest. This cumulative statistics showcase an improvement in run blocking on non-power runs, as well as in protecting Jared Goff on standard downs.

I personally subscribe to the "Good QBs make mediocre lines look good" school of thought. I think Jared's ability to maneuver the pocket, and threat of the passing game by his Golden Bear arm lead to the O-Line performing better relative to what it actually would've done with a replacement level QB. This is indicated by the abysmal power success rate as well as in the high stuff rate by the O-Line. The former indicates that when the defense doesn't have to respect the pass, the run game suffers greatly.

What then explains the higher efficiency in these stats by the 2014 crew? I think the answer lies in 2 words : Daniel Lasco. My personal idea is that 2014 Daniel Lasco was a far more versatile and effective player than 2015 Vic, Tre, and Khalfani. This allowed the offense to have more nuance in play-calling; ie. with Daniel we are able to have him run the flat, wheel, streak routes out of the backfield, take inside zones for big-boy runs, outside zones for finesse and quickness based runs, and have him do an good job picking-up blitzes. This versatility masked the possible play-calls of the Cal-offense thus making the defense more apprehensive about picking a key.

Jared Goff's increased ability to manage the pocket pre and post snap alleviated the pass related decline due to Lasco's injury but he wasn't able to address the elements of the running game directly related to running the ball.

Summa Summarum : Offense

Looking at the improvements across the board for our offense we saw a nice trend in the relative statistics. When accounting for the strength of our opposition the Bear Raid was able to perform admirably surpassing most of the statistics from previous years. Again, I would like to caution against extrapolating this improvement towards the next year: with OC change as well as the departure of a sure-fire 1st Round QB as well as the loss of ~80% of offensive production through the air will make the 2016 year a much higher variance season than 2014 and 2015 years wer.

Next week I will focus on the defense and what we improvements we between the seasons. Till then:

Class is Dismissed.