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Cal Advanced Stats: Cal vs. Oregon

Once more unto the breach my dear Bears.

USC v California Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Note: Intro to Advanced Stats article from 2015.

Bitterness of defeat is only highlighted by the fact of how close victory was. Four 3 quarters the Bears were one good play away from leading against the Trojan who struggled to find an answer the Cal defense. Despite having a QB who according to the announcers was a combination of Russell Wilson, Tony Romo, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and the humility of Kendrick Lamar SC did not find a consistent way to challenge the Cal defense.

Good news: Cal defense held the SC offense held by the offspring of Johnny Unitas, and Otto Graham to a sub-par performance in the explosiveness category. Whether it was the injury to Ronald Jones II that caused the drop in explosiveness, or the Cal D figuring out how to prevent big plays through the air, it was a good sign for Cal. Also, Cal was able to up it’s stuff rate by 9 percentage points over its 4 game average.

Bad News: All Cal offensive statistics sans the 1st Q success rate. In all other statistics for the offense... it was not pretty. The most glaring being Ross Bower’s passing numbers on standard downs: 4/17 and 47 yards, this cannot continue especially on downs where Cal can rely on the run game and the defense is forced to respect the possibility.

Cal’s probability of going 6-6 or better is 56.5%.

California Golden Bears, 3-1 (0-1 Pac-12 North): S&P+ Overall Ranking: #65 (down 3)

Overall

Cal Overall Week 4

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 32.9 41 31.1 81
Points Per Game 38.3 73 32 63

Offense got worse by 10 and the defense got better by 7. Relative to last week. This is why the team’s overall ranking continues to decline. At this rate the three weeks for the two statistics to intersect and invert.

Offense

Cal Offense Week 4

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Success Rate 39.70% 90 40.10%
IsoPPP 1.22 46 1.17
Avg. FP 30 70 29.6
Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.89 107 4.38

Cal offense is the worst it has been, statistically, since 2013 where Cal offense was ranked 89th under HC Dykes’ first year with True Freshman Jared Goff. We can see that Cal continues to fail to execute once close to the opposing red-zone, and have a declining success rate despite being ranked 32nd in 2016 (difference being 6 percentage points). Something that brings the ratings up is the explosive play of the offense where both through the air and on the ground we’re above the mean.

Cal Rushing Offense Week 4

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing Success Rate 43.50% 70 41.70%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.94 54 0.91
Opportunity Rate 37.10% 87 39.30%
Power Success Rate 57.10% 96 68.70%
Stuff Rate 24.60% 119 19.20%

There is still a problem with the raw power that the OL can generate. Both the Power Success Rate and the Stuff Rate are indicative of a poor OL play in rushing situations. Add the low opportunity rate also hints at OL issues. The difference between this OL and the 2016 is stark. In 2016 Cal OL was ranked 33rd in Opp. rate 66th in Power Success Rate, and 24th in Stuff Rate.

Cal Receivers

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/ Catch Yds/ Target Catch Rate Success Rate Target Rate
Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/ Catch Yds/ Target Catch Rate Success Rate Target Rate
Vic Wharton III WR 5'11, 200 JR 33 21 345 2 16.4 10.5 63.60% 48.50% 21.60%
Kanawai Noa WR 6'0, 185 SO 28 17 247 0 14.5 8.8 60.70% 46.40% 18.30%
Jordan Veasy WR 6'3, 225 SR 22 11 139 2 12.6 6.3 50.00% 45.50% 14.40%
Demetris Robertson WR 6'0, 190 SO 16 7 70 0 10 4.4 43.80% 31.20% 10.50%
Patrick Laird RB 6'0, 200 JR 15 11 98 1 8.9 6.5 73.30% 26.70% 9.80%
Brandon Singleton WR 6'0, 170 SO 7 5 48 0 9.6 6.9 71.40% 42.90% 4.60%

The lack of D.Rob is showing. Despite missing the last two games, and with that 100 passing attempts by the offense (48 against Ole Miss, and 52 against USC), is still the 4th most targeted player on offense. This indicates that there hasn’t been anyone outside of the 1st string that has stepped up. Maybe the comeback of Melquise Stovall will provide Cal with a spark as D.Rob sits out with an undisclosed injury.

Vic Wharton III, Kanawai Noa, and Jordan Veasy add-up to more than 50% of the targets. One worry is the fact that none of them have impressive catch rates. For comparison Vic Wharton has the best catch rate, and yet his rate would rank as the worst catch rate on the Oregon offense out of the top 5 of their passing targets. Bowers has to be more accurate, and I am not sure if he will get better with ball placement throughout the season. (We have been spoiled by Jared Goff and Davis Webb).

Defense

Cal Defense Week 4

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Success Rate 44.90% 105 40.10%
IsoPPP 1.05 36 1.17
Avg. FP 31.6 105 29.6
Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.5 24 4.38

Cal defense is the embodiment of a bend/don’t break defense, by combining its high Success Rate allowance rate and it’s low explosive play/pts. per trip to 40 rate, the team gives up yards but not points.

Cal Rushing Defense Week 4

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing Success Rate 48.50% 111 41.70%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.68 15 0.91
Opportunity Rate 40.90% 104 39.30%
Power Success Rate 91.70% 122 68.70%
Stuff Rate 17.90% 85 19.20%

These stats maintain the fact that the defense is focused on keeping the runners in front of them to prevent plays after the first couple of yards. This is detrimental to Cal since an opponent can grind out small yards and be patient in the approach.

Cal Defensive Footprint Week 4

Category Team Rk Nat'l Average
Category Team Rk Nat'l Average
Std. Downs Run Rate 50.90% 113 58.70%
Pass. Downs Run Rate 23.50% 117 33.60%
Overall Havoc Rate 16.20% 74 16.70%
DL Havoc Rate 1.70% 118 3.90%
LB Havoc Rate 7.20% 9 3.60%
DB Havoc Rate 3.90% 88 5.10%
PD to INC 34.80% 55 33.50%

Teams hesitate running at Cal. This is shown by the very low run rates on both standard and passing downs relative to the national average. This means that what teams see on tape against Cal D scares them, despite the talent on the outside Cal has in Hicks, Allensworth, Bynum, etc. This can be an interesting study: why do team not elect to run against the D despite the high success rate they can obtain.

Oregon Ducks, 3-1 (0-1 Pac-12 North): S&P+ Overall Ranking: #26

Oregon is an explosive offense, especially on regular downs, where they were explosive 50% more often than the average FBS offense against ASU. However, they struggle to gain the efficient yards. This is mostly due to the passing game.

Overall

Oregon Overall

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 40.1 5 27.9 66
Points Per Game 67.7 3 35.3 72

Oregon comes to play offense. It’s offense is ranked 5th S&P+ which means that Cal is going to face the best offense it will all year long. The defense is still quite good, despite failing to look like an adequate defense against ASU or Nebraska, with the latter being a lackluster offense (78th S&P+ offense).

Offense

Oregon Offense Overall

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Success Rate 49.00% 18 40.10%
IsoPPP 1.24 40 1.17
Avg. FP 33.4 18 29.6
Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.76 4 4.38

This is a defense that marches down the field and then scores. The match between Cal D and Oregon O will be decided past the Cal 40 yard line. If Cal can force Oregon to kick FGs + Punt > than TDs it will be a real win for the Cal D.

Oregon Offense Detail

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing Success Rate 50.70% 22 41.70%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.87 80 0.91
Opportunity Rate 37.50% 83 39.30%
Power Success Rate 83.30% 17 68.70%
Stuff Rate 14.00% 15 19.20%
Passing Success Rate 46.70% 32 40.10%
Passing IsoPPP 1.77 16 1.46

The match-up between the two will be between Cal pass D and Oregon Pass O. If we can force the Oregon offense to rely on the run against the Cal D we can force Oregon into making mistakes. Most teams do not thrive on making long drives and will be forced to make errors. In football long drives exhaust the defense more than the offense, but offenses are more likely to make mental mistakes.

Cal will be wise to continue to clamp down on big plays by Oregon’s WRs and force each drive to be a long protracted struggle for yards. The OL doesn’t help the RBs produce yards after the first handful, but it doesn’t allow the run D to leak to the backfield for TFLs or stuffs. However, despite having Royce Freeman at their disposal the offense doesn’t generate enough explosion on the ground. This could help the Cal Defense scheme, Cal usually post a single high look where they try to stop the run, but with a Oregon defense so reliant on the passing explosiveness maybe it would be wise to play Cover 2/6 and hope our LBs are good enough to contain the run.

Defense

Oregon Overall Defense

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Success Rate 34.30% 21 40.10%
IsoPPP 1.15 65 1.17
Avg. FP 31.8 111 29.6
Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.04 105 4.38

The offense and the defense are similar to one another in Oregon’s case... ranking wise. They contain the successful plays, are FBS average when containing the big plays, and are poor in their own 40. The Cal offense will struggle nonetheless, with the passing attack helmed by Ross Bowers who is making his 5th start overall. He seems like a player who doesn’t falter and uses failure as an opportunity to learn, he has had 50 passing plays, 6 turnovers, and many missed opportunities to learn from.

Oregon Detailed Defense

Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Category Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Rushing Success Rate 34.60% 28 41.70%
Rushing IsoPPP 0.79 40 0.91
Opportunity Rate 32.20% 26 39.30%
Power Success Rate 87.50% 119 68.70%
Stuff Rate 21.40% 59 19.20%
Passing Success Rate 33.90% 33 40.10%
Passing IsoPPP 1.49 85 1.46

Laird, Enwere, Clark, and Echols will struggle in this game. There is going to be a lot of frustrating 2-3 yard runs with not a lot of chunk yardage available for the offense. This defense is a poor match-up for a team that tries to rely on a running game to win. Add the low success rate it will be hard for Bowers to build confidence in the scheme and his own eyes.

Oregon HAVOC

Category Team Rk Nat'l Average
Category Team Rk Nat'l Average
Std. Downs Run Rate 56.80% 80 58.70%
Pass. Downs Run Rate 34.50% 60 33.60%
Overall Havoc Rate 21.90% 10 16.70%
DL Havoc Rate 1.90% 112 3.90%
LB Havoc Rate 7.40% 5 3.60%
DB Havoc Rate 7.40% 20 5.10%
PD to INC 45.30% 9 33.50%

The main number to worry about is the DB HAVOC rate, with a disruptive defense like this, with HAVOC on LB and DB, it will give us a lot of headaches on the offensive front. Cal should focus on finding a way to keep the offense running despite the 22% chance of disruption.

Final Thoughts

Autzen, Oregon Ducks, explosive passing offense, and disruptive defense. I have seen those before. Bowers and Baldwin are facing a tough defense that does allow a lot of points but is also disruptive. With Cal’s most recent issues one offense and its recently found capacity to contain explosive passing and rushing plays I have a gut feeling that this will be a low scoring affair akin to the first 3 Qs of the Cal v. SC game.

Unless Ross Bowers is able to find it in himself to elevate himself and overcome the very frustrating play of the Oregon defense he should be able to find points on the scoreboard as long as he and Baldwin prevent themselves from being frustrated by the Oregon D we should find a way to win.

The Wilcox-DeRuyter defense need to shut down the explosive pass game of Oregon, without it it becomes a game of attrition which is suboptimal for Cal but it is more likely to succeed given the nature of long drives, as long as Coach Becton has been conditioning the Bears to a proper standard.