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Cal Football Advanced Stats: Cal vs. UC L.A.

Beaten but Unbowed Cal Returns Home for A Intra-family Game

NCAA Football: California at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

As Nick said, Cal had a statistical profile against Arizona of a team that would be winning 93% of the time, and we lost. Add to the fact that the Cal offense is officially worse than any Sonny Dykes defense (not a apples to apples comp since we’re comparing week 6 data with end of the year data).

There is not much to review here that isn’t evident.

1.5 AY/A

This is the post 1st Q adjusted yardage per attempt Khalil Tate had. The defense absolutely earned its 6th overall ranking by limiting the Arizona offense through the air to an equivalent of a QB sneak.


Brandon McIlwain and the OL were able to limit the number of sacks by the Zona defense to just 2 in 45 dropbacks. This is a good sack rate for an offensive line that is still getting used to the habits of the QB playing behind them. Of course a lot of it has to do with McIlwain spinning out of sacks for 2-3 yard runs.

Bill C

In any meaningful statistic above, besides turnovers, Cal won. Statistical numbers like yards do not win games, points do. And if the offense continues to fail to be mediocre then it truly is going to waste a defense the same way the Dykes defenses wasted Jared Goff and co. To see this happen within a span of 5 years is unprecedented.

As fans of the team we’re not asking the offense to be good, we’re asking them to be competent.

Cal (53rd S&P+ Ranking) vs. UC L.A. (85th S&P+ Ranking)

Cal in Week 6

Despite another loss, Cal rose in the S&P+ rankings mostly through the work of its defense that climbed 10 rankings to clinch elite status for the week. As mentioned beforehand the offense fell into the nadir of college football previously explored by Dykes defenses.

Cal Overall Week 6

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Success Rate* 43.40% 58 36.80% 27
Marginal Efficiency* -3.20% 62 -8.90% 17
IsoPPP* 1 120 0.97 12
Marginal Explosiveness* -0.11 122 -0.17 7
Avg. FP 32.3 22 25.7 15
Pts. Per Scoring Opp. 3.34 129 4.24 49

Here we can see the issue in the offense. It is as explosive as a bag rocks. Even factoring in the McIlwain based run game the offense has failed to produce big plays putting Cal at the bottom 10 in the FBS. What is worse? It’s inability to score while in the opposition’s 40 yard line. Cal averages 3.34 points per trip. That’s nearly a point less than the #6 overall defense allows (ie. Cal). .

At least Cal is facing an opponent that hasn’t won a game and is expected to beat by a touchdown at home for the Joe Roth game.

Cal Offense (117th Ranked Offense) vs. UC L.A. Defense (78th Ranked Defense)

Cal on Offense, UC L.A. on Defense

Categories Cal Offense Cal Rk UCLA Defense UCLA Rk
Categories Cal Offense Cal Rk UCLA Defense UCLA Rk
Rushing marginal efficiency* -2.20% 23 -7.90% 68
Rushing marginal explosiveness* -0.22 113 -0.15 44
Opportunity rate* 51.10% 33 47.50% 86
Stuff rate* 15.40% 24 13.60% 123
Passing marginal efficiency* -4.30% 107 1.30% 92
Passing marginal explosiveness* 2.70% 113 28.70% 96
Passing completion rate* 64.20% 34 65.30% 119
Sack rate* 5.70% 54 6.20% 65

Cal on offense should a) run the ball on 1st down, b) run the ball on second down, and c) run the ball whenever possible because we are neither explosive or efficient through the air. Especially with the statistical profile of the UCLA defense with the pass defense being in the top 25 on the same measurements. (edited out due to table reading error). Relying on our strengths to win the game on the ground will remain being a key for the offense until the passing game finds a rhythm of mediocrity.

Against Arizona Cal converted 3-3 of 3rd downs that are less than 4 yard long, and we went 1-7 on 3rd downs 9+ yards to go. This reinforces the need to run the ball to give McIlwain a better chance to convert.

The key for this win would be Laird and McIlwain on the ground. With sprinkles of passes to Wharton and Noa who have shown to be able catchers with their high catch rates. There is good news with the fact that as more snaps McIlwain takes the more comfortable he can be as the QB. Although I am still intrigued by the passing upside that Chase Garbers provides.

Cal Defense (6th Ranked Offense) vs. UC L.A. Offense (89th Ranked Defense)

Cal on Defense, UC L.A. on Offense

Category UCLA Offense UCLA Rk Cal Defense Cal Rk
Category UCLA Offense UCLA Rk Cal Defense Cal Rk
Rushing marginal efficiency* -6.30% 67 -10.80% 40
Rushing marginal explosiveness* -0.06 58 -0.29 11
Opportunity rate* 47.00% 63 47.10% 82
Stuff rate* 18.70% 63 20.40% 56
Passing marginal efficiency* -8.80% 123 -6.90% 21
Passing marginal explosiveness* -1.10% 119 0.30% 19
Passing completion rate* 58.10% 88 56.90% 46
Sack rate* 9.10% 111 4.30% 104

As an offense UCLA has been roughly a 50/50 on run:pass splits. To win the game Cal needs to focus on shutting down the run game and force UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson / Wilton Speight to pass the ball and pass it often. Neither of those two are at the level of a Justin Herbert.

None of the WRs and skill players stand out on the spreasheet, with many of the top WRs having low yards per catch and catch rates. Theo Howard could pose some problems on the field, however, with his size comparable to Camryn Bynum/Elijah Hicks I expect both of them to handle the WRs well.

Again this win will probably be because the defense was able to remain as dominant has they have been during the season, sans Oregon. I expect the schemes to make the UCLA QB’s life difficult with disguises and with our plays able to go mano a mano against the southern branch’s skill players. Look to Aaron Maldonado to come into the game swinging looking to show that the Los Angeles branch was wrong to drop his offer.


Defense looks to continue to dominate opposing QBs as it has, the LBs need to stay healthy and absolutely terrifying for RBs to meet in the hole, and the offense needs to learn to respect the ball, respect each possession, and run the ball, especially with the statistical edge Cal has when it keeps it on the ground whether it is Laird/McIlwain/Dancey.

This could be a good bounce back game for the team on a 2 game loosing streak. With an opponent still trying to find its groove with the new staff in play.