[No tables this week... Not feeling 100%.]
It was close, much closer than I expected considering the mismatch Cal faced between its defense and the Zona offense. In a game between two teams separated from each other by 60-ish S&P+ rankings, Cal’s 50% win expectancy is remarkable. Though we don’t revel in moral victories, we can glean some silver linings from this loss. Like any ass-kicking exam at Cal there are things we can draw from that are positive. Such as the no-quit attitude of the team down 21-7 at halftime.
The offense lacked explosion but it made-up for it with ruthless efficiency, topping out at a good 46% rate for both runs and passes. Despite the defense giving up huge plays to the Zona offense, the Cal offense was able to sustain long drives (on avg.) that allowed the defense to rest and would chip-away at the stamina of the Zona defense in the long run.
There is a slight uptick on the catch-rate by the WR indicates an improvement by the QB-WR combo.
My early Cal Offensive MVP vote goes to... PAT LAIRD.
Defensive MVP goes to Devante Downs (</3)
California Golden Bears, 4-4 (1-4 Pac-12 North): S&P+ Overall Ranking: #94 (down 7)
The offense improves slightly but the defensive struggles against Zona caused the team to decline slightly in the S&P+ rankings. Furthermore, the ranking has to do with the fact that UNC and Ole Miss ain’t as good as we expected, UNC is ranked 103 and Ole Miss 76th, yet Cal dominated the 18th ranked WSU... Odd team statistically speaking.
The Cal Rushing offense continues to underperform statistically. With the return of Pat Laird there might be a slight uptick in this statistic across the board sans the ones focused on line-play. Considering the influx of talent Cal will obtain on the O-Line side and the Coaching by Greatwood I don’t expect Cal to remain in the 100s for O-Line play.
Passing is a little better AKA below mediocre. Much of the passing data is anchored by the poor performance by Bowers against Oregon and USC. I think both Baldwin and Bowers have found a set of plays that both are comfortable calling and with Coach Edwards in the WR room making sure the WRs know what’s up, we might see more steady improvement (despite the 2 INT performance by Bowers). Albeit we should not expect anything but national average from this offense by the end of the season.
The Zona and Oregon game have showed the rest of the Pac-12 the recipe to beat Cal: Run the ball, run it again, and when in doubt, run it again. There is little Cal can do against the opponent’s run game, especially in the 1-5 yard range. The weakness of the Cal team lies in the trenches and it is remarkable how we’re 4-4 despite the poor line play.
This is why I am skeptical that Cal can win against the Furd this year, they have the second best RB in College football in Bryce Love and are committed to the run.
The passing defense took a slight dive after Zona but remains the force to the reckoned.
Interestingly, the defense in the 4th Q climbs to the 22nd best in the nation while the offense climbs to 45th.
Colorado Buffaloes, 4-4 (1-4 Pac-12 South): S&P+ Overall Ranking: #87
Colorado is a pretty even team with the offense being slightly better than the defense.
Colorado has a good rushing game with an efficient passing game. The Colorado power run can be deadly for Cal’s D-Line. The solution that Colorado can use against Cal is a lot of Phillip Lindsay and Steve Montez running the ball. If Cal can solve its run-game defense woes, it can win the game (as long as Bryce Bobo isn’t catching on our DBs) since I trust Cal’s DBs on coverage under this staff.
Using the S&P+ situational Data, Colorado doesn’t have Cal’s upward trajectory as quarters go thus as long as Cal can keep up with the Buffs after the 1st half there is a very good chance for a win.
Cal has to run the ball. With the Buffs being similar to Cal in the pass/run defense. With the weakness of the Buffs in the passing game matching-up with the Cal passing offense weakness (efficient passing plays). Furthermore, the Buffs have been poor in their HAVOC plays especially on the DL. Another sign for Cal to run the ball.
Their star defensive players, statistically are Drew Lewis, Evan Worthington, and Rick Gamboa. All of whom are within 6 tackles of each other. Yet besides Lewis and Gamboa, all of the top 5 tacklers are the DBs, which means that the DL and LB aren’t making their run tackles.
Colorado has a 59% chance of winning with a S&P+ margin of 4 points win. I think this makes sense, considering the homefield advantage the Buffs have, the Cal team coming off a 2OT game while the Buffs want to redeem themselves from the 28-nil loss against WSU.
Cal has to defend the run well, and run the ball well to win the game. It’s this simple.