clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Evans Hall: Cal wins BYE Week in an upset.

Defense Bears, (PLEASE GIVE US SOME) Defense!

University of California v University of Hawaii - College Football Sydney Cup Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Last weekend was the beginning of the college football season. Or so the announcers in the Cal v. Hawai’i game the week before said ad nauseum. My Hawai’i post-game thoughts aligned quite closely with the overall thought in the Cal football blogosphere. Glancing at the advanced data from the raw Football Study Hall we can see some comforting news about Cal’s success rate on each down was 50% (good for 28th in the Nation), and some discomforting news about the low 4.64 Points Per Drive (69th in the nation) with 11 out of 13 drives being scoring opportunities for our offense (which means we kicked a bit too many field goals and punted vis-a-vis the number of opportunities we had in the opponent’s redzone).

California Golden Bears 1-0 (0-0 Pac-12 North)

Overall

Team Rec. 2ndO Wins (Diff) S&P+ (Percentile) S&P+ (Margin) Rk Last Wk Change Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk ST S&P+ Rk
California 1-0 0.8 (-0.2) 58.50% 2.4 53 53 0 41.7 11 39.6 108 0.3 46

When we look at this: offense is great. As good as it was during the Tony Franklin era. However, the same caution for the bad news as for good news from this data will apply: volatility will swing the data up and down and this maybe an upswing for the offense. Which is nice because this means our defensive numbers might get better. As it stands right now, the S&P+ data, raw data without judgement, has us for 53rd team in the college football.

Offense

Offense
Category Avg. Rk
Explosiveness IsoPPP 1.35 46
Efficiency Success Rate 50.80% 33
Field Position Avg. FP 37.8 20
Finishing Drives Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.64 68

Here we can see the detailed breakdown of the offense. One number that jumps out is the very good field position the offense had. This is credit to Khalfani Muhammad who gained substantial FP for the offense. Credit also to the defense and ST for getting Cal 3 turnovers in very favorable positions on the field (this all amounted to a solid 7.9 extra yards of field position vis-a-vis the national avg.)

Yet again I am worried about the lack of explosive plays that the team generated in the offense, despite having much better athletes than Hawai’i on the outside. Some of it can be credited with the fact that Davis Webb was shaking off some rust. I sure hope to see him showcase the vaunted arm of his.

Passing

Offense Avg. Rk Passing Success Rate 58.50% 14 Passing IsoPPP 1.25 92

This further emphasizes the lack of explosive plays for the passing offense.

Rushing

Offense
Category Avg. Rk
Explosiveness IsoPPP 1.35 46
Efficiency Success Rate 50.80% 33
Field Position Avg. FP 37.8 20
Finishing Drives Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.64 68

The good Power Success Rate and other statistics on rushing come from a small sample of 33 rushes. However, one disquieting figure does stand out, the Opportunity Rate. We had a veteran o-line however, it did not generate enough for a push for our RBs to successfully gain the “success” yards on rushes as often as we expected them. The number is mostly dragged down by the fact that Tre Watson was only successful on 18.7% of his tries. A lot of them were on outside zones that failed to create holes for Watson.

Defense

Defense Category Avg. Rk Explosiveness IsoPPP 1.37 94 Efficiency Success Rate 45.00% 97 Field Position Avg. FP 23 18 Finishing Drives Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.17 89

“Good teams are all alike; every bad team is bad in its own way..” - Coach Leo Tolstoy of the St. Petersburg Fighting Bears.

In the case of our Bears it is the defense that is the cause of our ails. In each of the important measures we have been in the bottom 1/3rd of the college football landscape.

Digging deeper into the data... it isn’t very encouraging.

Defense Avg. Rk Rushing Success Rate 44.40% 89 Rushing IsoPPP 1.21 88 Opportunity Rate 44.70% 109 Power Success Rate 80.00% 70 Stuff Rate 13.20% 113

This confirms the fact that the rushing defense was abysmal all across the board. Especially with the poor stuff rate against an FCS o-line as well as a bad pair of poor success rate and explosiveness measures.

The defending the passing game also leaves a lot to be desired:

Defense Avg. Rk Passing Success Rate 45.50% 101 Passing IsoPPP 1.5 82

There isn’t much for me to say: we allowed a QB who barely cracked 50% of his passes a 45.5% success rate...

San Diego State Aztecs (1-0, 0-0 MWC)

Overall

Team Rec. 2ndO Wins (Diff) S&P+ (Percentile) S&P+ (Margin) Rk Last Wk Change Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk ST S&P+ Rk
San Diego State 1-0 1.0 (0.0) 61.60% 3.3 46 50 4 19.3 110 16.4 20 0.4 42

SDSU according to S&P+ is a slightly better team than Cal. This is attributed to the high defensive ranking for the 3-3-5 aligned Aztecs. However, the most crucial match-up will be SDSU’s rushing offense. And we can see that despite the win against the University of New Hampshire Josiah Bartlets (not actually named after President Bartlet), their offense was very poor, as in Cal defense against Hawai’i level poor.

What was the reason? Was it a down game for the Aztecs?

SDSU Offense Cal Defense Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Rushing Success Rate 44.40% 58 44.40% 89 Rushing IsoPPP 1.06 66 1.21 88 Opportunity Rate 35.90% 82 44.70% 109 Power Success Rate 100.00% 1 80.00% 70 Stuff Rate 12.80% 30 13.20% 113

Here we can see that it is going to be a match-up of mediocre performance vs. a bad defense. The key stat that probably is also the one way Cal can mitigate the SDSU offense : Opportunity Rate. As long as we force SDSU to rely on their passing game we can gain an edge, and this isn’t the typical “stop the run” adage, here we just need to make it ineffective enough to have the SDSU OC weight the hypothetical expected gain from passing a little more heavily than running. I trust that Darius Allensworth will win nearly all of his match-ups against Mikah Holder allowing us to tilt the safeties towards Marloshawn Franklin’s side.

Conclusion:

This is going to be one of those games where we will have to score in every offensive drive to keep up with the leaky defense, it will be a game won when SDSU’s pass/rush ratio is 60/40.

I remain optimistic about our Bears, defying the Vegas and Football Study Hall numbers due to the fact that I do not think the offensive drop-off between the Goffense and Spavifense era is going to be as bad as people project. The issue is the fact that once opposing teams are able to shut down Chan Hansen (doubling him with a CB and FS) the per-drive performance of the offense will suffer. And I am not a fan of volatility.