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Cal Football Advanced Statistics: Cal vs. Arizona

Once More Unto the Breach My Bears

NCAA Football: Oregon at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Cal vs. Oregon Overview:

0.4 AY/A

That’s the combined AY/A for the Cal QBs. 174 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 30 attempts. Taking in the values with the proper weights we get 0.4. You know what is 0.4 yards long ? Half a Fruit by the Foot. That’s a QB sneak instead of an attempt through the air.

That’s the efficiency closer to Nathan Elliot’s play against Cal than any other QB Cal faced this year.

241 yards on the ground

One shining point on the Cal offense is the revival of the rushing game with Brandon McIlwain and Patrick Laird laying down 100 yards on the ground. This went against the projection of a strong Oregon run defensive game and Cal’s lack of ground production.

27 yards per return

Special teams is an overlooked element in the game. With the 3rd phase of the game taking up less than 5 minutes a game it is often a time for fans to check facebook or do another turn on their phone game. However, the improvement in the special team production allows the offense to have a little more space to operate and had a chance to score with Wharton nearly taking it to the house in his one-man show recreation of the legendary North Texas return.

Cal (60th S&P+ Ranking) vs. Arizona (63rd S&P+ Ranking)

Cal in Week 5

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Success Rate* 43.90% 58 37.10% 37
Marginal Efficiency* -4.80% 88 -9.40% 21
IsoPPP* 0.99 120 0.99 16
Marginal Explosiveness* -0.09 113 -0.12 18
Avg. FP 33.8 10 24.7 8
Pts. Per Scoring Opp. 3.45 126 4.65 83

Cal defense is trending down with the offense with a light uptick.

By next week, barring any huge leaps by the Cal offense/defense, as well as BYU/UNC, Cal will settle around 50-60 area of just above average.

Cal Offense (113th Ranked Offense) vs. Arizona Defense (79th Ranked Defense)

Arizona fields the worst FBS defense Cal will face up to now. Statistically speaking even UNC and BYU have been better facing the Cal offense. There are some serious holes in the run defense that both McIlwain/Garbers and Laird can take advantage of.

Cal on Offense, Arizona on Defense

Category Cal Offense Cal Rk Arizona Defense Arizona Rk
Category Cal Offense Cal Rk Arizona Defense Arizona Rk
Rushing marginal efficiency* -3.60% 36 -2.70% 110
Rushing marginal explosiveness* -0.22 113 -0.1 64
Opportunity rate* 51.00% 37 44.70% 58
Stuff rate* 16.60% 39 23.50% 26
Passing marginal efficiency* -6.20% 114 -4.10% 39
Passing marginal explosiveness* 8.80% 100 6.10% 37
Passing completion rate* 60.80% 66 60.50% 78
Sack rate* 5.40% 58 4.20% 105

The focus on running the ball, Arizona besides its stud LB in Colin Schooler, relies on its safeties to make tackles as it is evident by the tackle share in the top 5. With Wildcat’s DT Dereck Boles being the top tackler on the DL at 9th. This means there are ample opportunities past the LOS if Cal can scheme around Schooler’s prodigious 12.5 TFLs (which is as much as Evan Weaver, Jordan Kunaszyk, Tevin Paul, Zeande Johnson, and Alex Funchess).

If Marcel Dancey is back in the fold after missing the Oregon game Cal conceivably take over the game by running Laird, Dancey and McIlwain away from Schooler.

Arizona Tackling

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Tackles TFLs Sacks Run Stuffs INT (PBU) FF Yards/Play Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl.
Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Tackles TFLs Sacks Run Stuffs INT (PBU) FF Yards/Play Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl.
Colin Schooler LB 6'0, 236 SO 43 10.5 1 12.5 0 (1) 1 3.1 -10.90% -0.53
Tony Fields II LB 6'1, 230 SO 28 1 0 2 0 (0) 0 5.8 11.90% -0.42
Jarrius Wallace S 6'1, 180 SO 24 0 0 2 1 (2) 0 11.8 34.80% 0.1
Isaiah Hayes S 6'0, 191 SO 19 0 0 0.5 0 (0) 1 8.8 34.30% -0.29
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles S 6'2, 209 SR 17 1 0 1.5 0 (2) 1 9.8 13.40% 0.23

In the passing game all I can say is that they should not turn the ball over. Don’t make it harder on the defense and the run game. Don’t muck it up with trying too much.

Both McIlwain and Garbers are abysmal passers statistically speaking. Brandon McIlwain averages more per carry than per passing attempt (7.1 YPC vs. 5.63 YPA) while Chase Garbers is 0.14 more effective as a passer and this is factoring in his Idaho State performance (6.5 YPC vs. 6.64 YPA).

Those low numbers aren’t even affected by poor drops. The top 5 targets are hauling in a good % of their targets:

Cal Receiving Stats Week 5

Player Targets Catches Yards TD Catch Rate Yds/Catch Yds/Target
Player Targets Catches Yards TD Catch Rate Yds/Catch Yds/Target
Vic Wharton III 22 17 144 0 77.30% 8.5 6.5
Kanawai Noa 21 14 154 1 66.70% 11 7.3
Patrick Laird 21 15 90 2 71.40% 6 4.3
Jordan Duncan 15 11 135 3 73.30% 12.3 9
Jeremiah Hawkins 9 4 54 1 44.40% 13.5 6

OC Baldwin had a chance over the BYE week to find a game-plan to find ways for the QBs to make throws they are comfortable. We’re not expecting them to throw all over the yard or make every throw with timing, touch, and anticipation a la Goff, but some semblance of competency would be appreciated.

Cal Defense (16th Ranked Defense) vs. Oregon Offense (48th Ranked Defense)

Cal on Defense, Arizona on Offense

Category Cal Defense Cal Rk Arizona Offense Arizona Rk
Category Cal Defense Cal Rk Arizona Offense Arizona Rk
Rushing marginal efficiency* -11.40% 37 -6.80% 77
Rushing marginal explosiveness* -0.26 17 -0.02 44
Opportunity rate* 46.00% 76 50.00% 42
Stuff rate* 20.20% 64 15.60% 29
Passing marginal efficiency* -7.10% 24 1.90% 44
Passing marginal explosiveness* 8.60% 43 43.60% 18
Passing completion rate* 56.20% 42 54.50% 107
Sack rate* 4.40% 98 3.00% 23

The good: We will be a huge test for the Arizona Wildcats and Khalil Tate. Capable of playing the run and the pass with a degree of ferociousness.

The bad: Arizona’s explosive passing game is where Cal defense can be really exploited. Arizona’s combination of an explosive passing offense coupled with Cal’s abysmal sack% could pose a lot of problems for the defense.

Shun Brown, Shawn Pointdexter, and Tony Ellison provide Khalil Tate with a duo of explosive pass catchers who have big play ability with Pointdexter averaging 21 yards per catch and Ellison 19.3. This is an insane amount of production by a duo of WRs against decent competition (BYU, USC, and Houston).

Arizona WRs

Player Ht, Wt Targets Catches Yards TD Catch Rate Yds/Catch Yds/Target
Player Ht, Wt Targets Catches Yards TD Catch Rate Yds/Catch Yds/Target
Shun Brown 5'10, 188 31 23 304 3 74.20% 13.2 9.8
Shawn Poindexter 6'5, 218 28 18 391 2 64.30% 21.7 14
Tony Ellison 5'11, 189 25 14 270 2 56.00% 19.3 10.8
Cedric Peterson 5'11, 193 12 6 72 2 50.00% 12 6
Devaughn Cooper 5'10, 175 10 4 86 0 40.00% 21.5 8.6

This ability to produce explosive plays I think adds to the urgency for the defense to prevent Tate from finding Pointdexter and forcing him to check-down to an RB/hot-read, or audible to the run game. Pointdexter could prove to be nigh unguardable on the right plays that leverage the fact that he is taller and has a longer reach than anyone on the defense (literally no one on the Cal D who has played a snap is > 6’4”). One player in the secondary could prove to be a match-up: Evan Rambo. And as USC showed last week, it is possible to limit the impact of the aforementioned WR (22 yards on 1 catches).


After looking into the data I am not as confident as I was coming into the article about Cal’s ability to win this game. The match-ups against Cal’s defense can be its undoing. If we can limit the targets to Pointdexter and Elliot and force Arizona to dink-and-dunk and rely on the run then it’ll be a good win for Cal’s D. On offense, just run the ball, don’t get too fancy through the air.

Will Cal win? No idea. Arizona is performing way below expectations for sure, however, the match-up specific data is convincing me that this will be a much closer game than we all expect.