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Cal Advanced Statistics: Cal v. Zona

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After Dominating in a Game Where Few Gave Cal a Shot, The Bears are Unto Arizona

NCAA Football: Washington State at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

I hate being wrong. It comes from my upbringing where being wrong was tantamount to being a failure. I didn’t see this scenario, of all scenarios in the world, to play out like it did on Friday. Yet, it never felt so good being this wrong, especially about our Golden Bears.

Before the game I was against having it played in the air conditions present. Even after the game, knowing what we know now, I am not a fan of the decision. Yet, the win, how it was won, surpassed any of my expectations. Wow.

What a game. Look at the WSU’s Success Rate, shutting down a normally efficient WSU offense was a huge surprise considering the struggles the Cal D has had in that department. Interesting note: Cal pass rush got to Falk whether or not it was an obvious passing down or not.

Another note, Cal got more efficient on offense after the 1st Quarter. It might’ve have something to do with the designed roll-outs for Bowers allowing the routes to develop more. Lots of side-ways movement can be exploited by savvy defenses by preventing running lanes and keeping coverage on WRs.

See: Steelers v. Chiefs last week where the athletic Steelers D was able to shut down the Smith roll out game by being able to both seal-off QB rushing lanes and keep in front of the Chiefs WRs on roll outs.

California Golden Bears, 4-3 (1-3 Pac-12 North): S&P+ Overall Ranking: #87 (up 9)

Overall

Cal Overall S&P+

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 24.2 104 27.1 61
Points Per Game 26.1 82 26 67

This is the first time this season where Cal’s overall S&P+ ranking went up! This is due to the offense, hopefully and finally, hitting its nadir at the 100s, with the defense trending up we can expect Cal to bounce to ~60s/70s in overall ranking.

Offense

Cal Overall Offense Week 7

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Success Rate 37.30% 111 40.10%
IsoPPP 1.2 56 1.17
Avg. FP 30.6 52 29.6
Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.88 109 4.38

The offense as a whole needs to find consistency in getting the “move the sticks” yards. With a national low in efficiency we cannot depend on big plays to get the offense out of the muck.

Cal Offense Detail

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 91.1 99 100
Rushing Success Rate 40.50% 86 42.00%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.87 78 0.91
Adj. Line Yards 88.5 115 100
Opportunity Rate 35.80% 97 39.00%
Power Success Rate 56.00% 114 68.70%
Stuff Rate 25.00% 123 19.20%
Passing S&P+ 96.8 84 100
Passing Success Rate 35.20% 108 40.10%
Passing IsoPPP 1.45 68 1.47
Adj. Sack Rate 80.7 93 100

Many of the rushing yards that Cal is generating come from the RBs creating something out of nothing rather than the OL creating the space for the RBs to operate. With Cal down to one experienced RB, it will continue to be a struggle to find yards on the ground. To be fair, Vic Enwere seemed to have found his groove late in the game, churning out one good run after another. Hopefully he can carry this groove throughout the season.

This stat is the mirror image of the one from last season where Cal would start each half cold and only heat-up by the 4th quarter. Here we can see a clear boost in the offensive performance of the team after half-time and throughout the game, which means that the team continues to be coached and schemes adjusted as the game goes by.

Defense

Cal Defense Overall Week 7

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Success Rate 45.10% 104 40.10%
IsoPPP 1.05 27 1.17
Avg. FP 32.7 121 29.6
Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.83 33 4.38

Cal defense motto for 2017: Take the yards, we’ll still hold you to a FG or a turnover.

Cal Defense Detail Week 7

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing S&P+ 94.5 86 100
Rushing Success Rate 50.70% 126 42.00%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.76 15 0.91
Adj. Line Yards 90.8 101 100
Opportunity Rate 44.70% 122 39.00%
Power Success Rate 86.40% 125 68.70%
Stuff Rate 14.40% 119 19.20%
Passing S&P+ 118.6 24 100
Passing Success Rate 40.60% 76 40.10%
Passing IsoPPP 1.34 41 1.47
Adj. Sack Rate 75.4 99 100

This defense allows teams to gain efficient “move the sticks” yards but is exceptionally stingy in giving away big plays. This is true both through the air and on the ground, which will pose an intriguing match-up next week with the 3rd most explosive rushing offense in Arizona.

Cal Passing Down Defense Week 7

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Passing Downs S&P+ 142 13 100
Passing Downs Success Rate 29.30% 59 30.60%
Passing Downs IsoPPP 1.16 5 1.52
PD Line Yards per Carry 3.47 79 3.31
PD Sack Rate 9.30% 39 7.40%

One thing that Cal has to do is to force opponents commit penalties, or stuff the run on 1st downs... and on passing downs it becomes a top 15 defense. This is ridiculous from a football standpoint. Without the threat of the run, the Cal defense can clamp down on a passing offense’s capacity to make a big play.

This is the biggest change in the Cal defense in my opinion. Why?

Cal passing down defense in 2016 was 122nd in the FBs.

Cal passing down defense in 2017 was 13th(?!?!?!?!?!!!!!) in the FBS. With the passing defense against explosive plays going from 123rd to... 5th! 5th! PEOPLE THIS IS LIKE GETTING AN A IN ECON 10! AFTER FAILING THE FIRST MIDTERM (this happened to me).

Arizona Wildcats, 4-2 (2-1 Pac-12 North): S&P+ Overall Ranking: #36

Overall

Zona Overall

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 36.7 17 29.3 75
Points Per Game 42.8 7 26.8 74

Cal defense, meet the toughest S&P+ offense by this week. The closest opponent per S&P+ is USC, the same team Cal was able to stymie. However, the reason the two are so highly rated is very different.

Offense

Zona Overall Defense

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Success Rate 44.40% 40 40.10%
IsoPPP 1.35 16 1.17
Avg. FP 30.3 58 29.6
Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.76 42 4.38

Arizona is a run first team in the truest form of the word. 70% of their standard downs are running downs. The reason they run it is due to the fact that they are the 3rd most explosive rushing offense.

The battle between the Zona rushing game and Cal rushing defense will be epic and THE deciding factor of the game.

If Cal can force Khalil Tate to beat Cal with his arm, game over. However, after watching Cal struggle against the rushing game decreases the chances of this scenario happening. However, as last week has shown... I tend to be quite wrong on this front.

Defense

Zona Overall Defense

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Success Rate 45.40% 108 40.10%
IsoPPP 1.05 29 1.17
Avg. FP 28.1 38 29.6
Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.08 46 4.38

If there is a game where the Cal offense can find for itself an efficient game, it is this one. Especially on the ground, one way to keep an explosive player in check is to keep the ball away from them. Cal can do this with a rushing game based on bruising runs by Vic Enwere with Ross Bowers taking some read-zone plays.

Zona Defenders

Name Pos Ht, Wt Year Tackles TFL (Sacks) Run Stuffs* Int (PBU) FF Succ. Rate**
Name Pos Ht, Wt Year Tackles TFL (Sacks) Run Stuffs* Int (PBU) FF Succ. Rate**
Lorenzo Burns CB 5'10, 173 FR 32.5 0.5 (0) 1 1 (3) 0 78.40%
Tony Fields II LB 6'1, 225 FR 29.5 3 (3) 1 0 (0) 0 48.60%
Scottie Young Jr. S 5'11, 195 FR 27 3 (0) 4 0 (0) 0 59.40%
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles S 6'2, 205 JR 25 0 (0) 1 3 (1) 0 86.20%
Dane Cruikshank CB 6'1, 206 SR 23.5 3 (0) 5 1 (0) 1 34.60%

One thing that Zona struggles with is LB/DL tackling (Sans DE Kyle Wilborn and LB Tony Fields II, they are FR so that should be fun for the next few years! [not]).

This is due to the fact that Zona’s 4 of the top 5 tacklers are DBs, which means that Cal might be able to exploit between the tackles and LBs. Another note is that CBs get a lot of runs stuffs from Dane Cruikshank and Scottie Young Jr. This can be due to the fact that they snuff outside-zones and screens well.

Final Thoughts

Cal can win this if it can keep the ball away from Khalil Tate by either dominating the TOP with its offense or it can stuff Tate to small gains and having him beat Cal with his arm. It is a pretty simple calculus.