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Rating the Bears: Cal vs. UCLA

The horror, the horror.

October 13th, 2017 was arguably the finest moment of Cal football in the 2010s. After a 3-0 start turned into a 3-3 record punctuated by two consecutive blowout losses, the Bears welcomed an 8th-ranked Washington State team to Memorial Stadium for a game that many thought should be cancelled due to excessive smoke in the air. What happened over the following three and a half hours was the most comprehensive, spectacular beatdown in recent memory, and a preview of what many of us hoped to see on a regular basis from Wilcox’s teams a year or two down the road. Exactly one year later, we saw the polar opposite.

Average Standard Deviation
Pass Offense 9.82 18.5
Rush Offense 22.1 25.0
Pass Defense 25.0 25.8
Rush Defense 17.9 22.5
Special Teams 25.0 26.8
Coaching 12.1 22.1
Overall 11.4 18.7
Win Probability vs. Oregon St. 24.7 (-52.2) 24.2 (+10.1)

What is most amazing to me is that this is not the worst-rated game in our 9 seasons of evaluating the Bears’ performances. It’s not even top five! The worst of all time was the 2013 blowout loss to the Lobsterbacks, which stands as the biggest Big Game loss in series history. In second place we have the 2013 Colorado game, a frigid, windy affair in which many Cal fans confirmed their suspicion that we should have hired MacIntyre instead of Dykes. Third-place goes to the 2012 Utah game. I don’t remember much about that game (for good reason), but I remember that it should have been a competitive game that may salvage our hopes of a bowl berth. Instead it was a blowout loss featuring insult and injury, as Keenan Allen finished his Cal career by injuring his PCL during a meaningless onside kick in garbage time. Fourth-worst was the infamous “we won the second half” blowout loss to USC in 2010. And fifth was the 2013 loss to Ohio State. Next up is this week’s debacle. I’m genuinely surprised that it wasn’t top-five, because I consider this to be the absolute worst Cal football game I have ever seen. Ever.

So how did this happen? It starts with a dreadfully low passing rating, which undoubtedly dragged down the coaching score because we insisted on turning McIlwain into a pass-first QB. Without McIlwain’s typical running, the scores for run offense dropped substantially. In addition to the offensive ineptitude, the defense had an uncharacteristically poor game. Even special teams struggled. This truly was the opposite of that dominant win a year prior.

As you probably guessed, this performance looks quite poor in comparison to recent games against UCLA.

Comparing Saturday’s debacle to recent, less-awful UCLA games.

Unsurprisingly, this is the worst performance we have seen against the Bruins.

And as you probably guessed based on our review of the top-five worst games in our ratings database, this was the worst game of the Wilcox Era by fair margin. It’s been nearly five years since we’ve seen something this terrible.

Comparing Saturday’s disaster (gold) to other games in the Wilcox era (blue).

Pass offense, special teams, coaching, and overall earned their lowest ratings of the Wilcox Era. The category that fared the best in comparison to recent games is run defense, one of the team’s notable weaknesses last season. It’s hard to imagine the team having a worse game this weekend. But after last week, I will never underestimate the self-destructive ineptitude of this offense. Remember how concerned we were when those rumors surfaced late last year that Baldwin may become Oregon State’s head coach? Judging by their impressive offensive production this year, they certainly dodged a bullet.


There is only one thing that can lift our spirits, and it’s our usual round of awards. Let’s start with the most pessimistic ratings of the week.

The Voice of Reason

Name Grade
1. Berkelium97 0 (0.0%)
1. Teepee 0 (0.0%)
1. Brandon “Apple Turnover” McIlwain 0 (0.0%)
1. Rollonyoubears111 0 (0.0%)
1. Uthaithani 0 (0.0%)
1. Goldenlikethebear 0 (0.0%)
1. PRD74 0 (0.0%)
1. slaphancock 0 (0.0%)
1. Wiata78 0 (0.0%)
1. sad 0 (0.0%)
1. TwistNHook 0 (0.0%)
1. DenverGoldenBear 0 (0.0%)
1. CaliforniaPaul 0 (0.0%)

Remember when seemingly everyone got Sunshine Pumper awards because so many of us submitted perfect scores for the Wazzu game? This is the opposite of that. Even our Blogfather TwistNHook made a rare appearance to provide a 0 for this game. Afterwards, we returned him to cryogenic stasis so he can indefinitely await Cal’s Rose Bowl berth.

Sunshine Pumpers

Name Rating
1. RememberTheCalamo 700 (100.0%)
2. Shit question bruv 483 (69.0%)
3. BTown85 324 (46.3%)
4. FrmrG8r 310 (44.3%)
5. 1988goldenbear 280 (40.0%)

Go home, Calamo. You’re drunk.

The Voice of Reason

Name Deviation
1. Sacbear 7.92
2. Joshlmay 8.11
3. Oskioftarth 8.68
4. Jamotoda 8.80
5. goldenone 9.74

Those deviations aren’t nearly as high as I had expected. I guess it’s easier to fall near the average when the range between the lowest and highest scores is so depressingly small.

Now let’s see how you felt about the game in words. This should be good...

Any comments on the gameday experience?

Oskioftarth - Beautiful afternoon in Strawberry Canyon, until it got as cold as Cal’s offense

PRD74 - The Gameday experience was fine. Hardly any commercials. Piped in music was okay. Fan turnout was better than I expected. And then the game started and everything went to our worst nightmare of what terrible Cal football can be. We are looking at zero wins the rest of the season.

RememberTheCalamo - I got to attend in person! The weather was great, Zachary’s for lunch was good. The drum major dropped his baton twice in the pregame rally....

What are your thoughts on Cal’s passing game?

Hardtobecalfan - atrocious. wildly unreliable.

GoldenBear88 - What passing game?

None - Horrible. From Bear Raid to Chuck and Duck.

Rollonyoubears111 - My 6 year old asked me why the web keeps throwing it to the other team. I wanted to give him a philosophical answer. But instead I told him that some people cannot learn from their mistakes.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s running game?

2004-present - Good but not good enough. Coaches showed us they learned nothing as far as running 4th and inches out of the shotgun. Disgraceful.

Teepee - Unimaginative

Mitchgobears - When Laird is averaging over 5 yards a carry, why not run more?

Oskiwow1 - not inspired

Jimmydac - We’ve always had a good running game. It’s about balance. Establish the run and open up the field horizontally and vertically.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s pass defense?

Oskioftarth - Chip Kelly must be some sort of offensive genius because he can get a receiver open over the middle any time he wants.

Heyalumnigo - Did the best they can. Quite a few passes with large YAC on slants because our defenders couldn’t keep up with the receiver and the passes were on the money.

1988goldenbear - The pass defense was okay, and there was some sporadic pressure too. But the Bruins found holes in the coverage when they needed conversions, and it felt like we couldn’t do enough to turn the momentum. It was a dagger when they drove for a touchdown right after we scored to open the 2nd half.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s run defense?

Depressed bear - ???

Post-recycled Paper Bag over head - nowhere near good enough

None - They try, but they are on the field all game due to the terrible offense

What are your thoughts on Cal’s special teams?

1988goldenbear - The missed FG at the end of the first half was a gut-punch. Punts were reasonable, coverage was not as good as usual. Kick-offs were solid. Returns were nothing special.

Old Bear 71 - Clang.

FrmrG8r - Clanking short field goals off the uprights is emblematic of this program right now.

Uthaithani - Not as lousy as the other aspects of the game, so there’s that.

What are your thoughts on the coaching staff’s performance?

FrmrG8r - Thoroughly unprepared to face a winless UCLA after embarrassing performances against OR & AZ. Not sure if Baldwin has a future here.

GoldenBear88 - Hot seat time! Cal WAS NOT ready to play.

Calbears79 - MIA

Goldenlikethebear - Beau, explain yourself.

1988goldenbear - What in the world are we doing on the offensive side of the ball? I know we had this conversation with Longshore and Riley, and when Webb was injured but kept throwing, but is BMac REALLY the best we have? We are so screwed if that is the case. If they are going to keep running BMac out there, at least give him a chance to succeed. He probably shouldn’t stay in the pocket at all - roll him out and buy him time away from our porous O-line. I don’t know what to say. I had such high hopes when we were able to get Baldwin from EWU, but now I don’t know what to say.

Oskioftarth - I, and everyone in the stadium - on the field, on the sidelines, and in the stands knew it would be a handoff up the middle on 4th & 1. C’mon

What are your thoughts on Cal’s overall performance?

FrmrG8r - This is full meltdown mode. With any hopes of a bowl game now flushed, it’s time to get the younger players ready for next year.

Texashaterforlife - This in my opinion is the worst game of the Wilcox era because the players seemed not to care. I can envision we lose the rest of our games this year and have a losing streak going into next year’s opener. If we do win one more game, please let it be Stanford.

Mitchgobears - They weren’t prepared.

Torreys Tacos - This team is clearly not going to a bowl game, which sucks, because they could use the extra month of practice.

Beau Baldwin has shown me nothing to think he’s even remotely competent as an offensive coordinator. The shotgun calls on fourth and 1, combined with not giving the ball to Malik, is tremendous stupidity. Worst of all is the lack of adjustments on all accounts and the inability for them to make very simple observations that everyone watching at the stadium and on TV are noticing. This team has regressed when there should have been progress. This is an absolute failure.

Heyalumnigo - UGH. Not a good first game to go to now that I’m back.

Well that was a gat-dang dee-light! Let’s see what happens on Saturday!