clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cal Advanced Statistics: 121st Big Game

The Axe is Coming Back to Berkeley

California v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Usually this is the part where I do a quick semi-rational overview of the previous game, picking numbers to tell the story of the game. However, after the win against SC, Oski don’t play that game.

All hype numbers this week:

Q3 - 53% Success Rate for Cal - 28% Success Rate for SC

This was the quarter that won the game. With SC making 2 key turnovers that Cal used to score all of its points in the game. This was highlighted by the fact that in all other quarters Cal failed to post >25% success rates which mean Cal offense as a whole failed to produce any “move the sticks” yards. In the pivotal game of the Wilcox era the 3rd was the pivotal 15 minutes.

4 sacks - 40 yards in the 2nd half.

Cal as a defense has struggled to generate pressure since the injury of Cam Goode the designated blitz LB. However, with Evan Weaver making the most of his A-gap pressures with Aaron Maldonado taking up 2 SC linemen in his pass-rush, and more importantly Luc Bequette generating sacks from a 3-4 DE spot the Cal pass-rush was able to get home on 11% of the JT Daniels drop-backs.

Add the fact that SC was only able to generate 40 yards of offense in the second half. Nuff said.

5.14 AYA

The Cal defense is voracious, though a lot of talk has been about the talent and ability of the corners (with Beck tricking the freshman QB into throwing interception by playing Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure level mindgames in his coverage).

I think the way the safeties were able to seamlessly shift between middle covered and uncovered coverages has been an underrated feature of the Gerald Alexander lead secondary. What that means is that Cal moves from a pre-snap Cover-2/4/6 look into a Cover-1/3 look with Ashtyn Davis / Jeremiah Hawkins being the pivots. This rotation makes reading the middle of the field really difficult because on every passing attempt Daniels cannot trust if the deep middle and seams are open or have rotated into a dangerous territory.

Cal (63rd S&P+ Ranking) vs. Stanfurd (35th S&P+ Ranking)

Cal Week 13

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Success Rate* 40.10% 92 37.20% 22
Marginal Efficiency* -5.70% 92 -8.40% 18
IsoPPP* 0.97 126 1.01 10
Marginal Explosiveness* -0.12 126 -0.11 9
Avg. FP 30.9 42 26.6 11
Pts. Per Scoring Opp. 3.59 127 4.34 48
Expected TO Margin -2.7 94
Actual TO Margin 0 71

Simple: Cal defense turns the opposing offenses into the Cal offense (sans the points per drive in the 40). Good note: the Cal special teams gives the Defense a very good opposing starting position around the opposing 27 yard-line.

Cal Offense (117th Ranked Offense) vs. Stanfurd Defense (55th Ranked Defense)

Cal on Offense, Furd on Defense

Category Cal Offense Cal Rk Stanfurd Defense Stanfurd Rk
Category Cal Offense Cal Rk Stanfurd Defense Stanfurd Rk
RUSHING S&P+ 94.4 96 102.6 62
Rushing marginal efficiency* -6.10% 61 -7.40% 63
Rushing marginal explosiveness* -0.2 119 -0.09 71
Opportunity rate* 48.90% 48 49.10% 91
Stuff rate* 17.90% 45 16.20% 108
PASSING S&P+ 86.8 121 95.9 97
Passing marginal efficiency* -5.40% 109 3.30% 108
Passing marginal explosiveness* -2.70% 122 0.1 34
Passing completion rate* 61.30% 51 62.80% 102
Sack rate* 6.80% 78 7.20% 41

Statistically Furd’s defense is worse than the SC, WSU, Washington, and BYU defenses Cal has faced during the season. Despite the relatively weaker pass D, I think Cal has to lean on Patrick Laird and Chris Brown Jr. on the ground. Early in the SC game Cal had both in the backfield (whether it was by design or the lack of WRs with Wharton’s 1 quarter suspension) I think this can help Cal run the ball in and outside with Laird being a good swing/wheel/angle pass target.

Now in the run game the OL needs to make sure to get to the LBs with the guards being key in sealing away the active Bobby Okereke and Sean Barton. With Okereke finding his way into the backfield for TFLs. However, dangerous the Furd ILBs are they are still miles away from the Cal IL duo. With the Cal OL having practiced against Weaver/Kunaszyk, they will not face the same caliber of players on Saturday.

Furd ILBs vs Cal ILBs

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Tackles TFLs Sacks Run Stuffs INT (PBU) FF Yards/Play Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl. No
Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Tackles TFLs Sacks Run Stuffs INT (PBU) FF Yards/Play Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl. No
Bobby Okereke ILB 6'3, 234 SR 53 5.5 2 8 0 (4) 1 6.2 8.00% -0.16 1
Sean Barton ILB 6'3, 224 SR 49 1.5 1 4.5 1 (1) 1 6.1 4.60% -0.17
Jordan Kunaszyk ILB 6'3, 235 SR 95 11 4 15 0 (2) 4 3.8 -0.20% -0.34
Evan Weaver ILB 6'3, 245 JR 85.5 7 3.5 12 2 (6) 0 4.1 -4.40% -0.36

In the passing game we might see a lot of fresh-faces with Ben Skinner and even Monroe Young who was injured in fall camp. However, I expect the passing game to often complement the rushing offense, either by using quick strike play-action and screens. Patrick Laird has lead the team with catches and is second in targets behind Vic Wharton. I don’t expect this game to upend Laird’s importance to Cal.

Cal Defense (17th Ranked Defense) vs. Stanfurd Offense (20th Ranked Offense)

Cal on Defense, Furd on Offense

Category Cal Defense Cal Rk Stanfurd Offense Stanfurd Rk
Category Cal Defense Cal Rk Stanfurd Offense Stanfurd Rk
RUSHING S&P+ 109.3 32 94.3 98
Rushing marginal efficiency* -10.10% 29 -10.30% 109
Rushing marginal explosiveness* -0.25 7 -0.04 45
Opportunity rate* 48.40% 85 42.60% 108
Stuff rate* 18.00% 81 25.90% 127
PASSING S&P+ 114.1 11 116.6 8
Passing marginal efficiency* -6.60% 19 6.90% 9
Passing marginal explosiveness* 0.07 26 21.60% 65
Passing completion rate* 58.50% 57 65.30% 22
Sack rate* 6.70% 53 3.90% 21

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside looks to be probable to play against Cal with Bryce Love being in full speed.

Cal was able to contain the Furd rushing game last year with 101 yards on 14 carries (57 yards coming from his rushing TD, 3.4 YPC taking this away). I think with Weaver/Kunaszyk in the mix the sputtering Furd run game will stay the same. None of the top 4 rushers for Furd have been efficient or explosive.

Furd RBs

Player Ht, Wt Rushes Yards Yards/Carry TD Hlt Yds/Opp Opp Rate Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl. Fum (lost) No
Player Ht, Wt Rushes Yards Yards/Carry TD Hlt Yds/Opp Opp Rate Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl. Fum (lost) No
Bryce Love 5'10, 202 122 580 4.8 5 6.36 43.40% -4.20% -0.02 0 (0) 1
Trevor Speights 5'11, 209 57 217 3.8 1 3.94 40.40% -10.20% -0.07 0 (0) 2
Cameron Scarlett 6'1, 216 49 191 3.9 5 5.2 32.70% -9.90% -0.04 0 (0) 3
Dorian Maddox 5'10, 202 18 73 4.1 1 3.33 44.40% -13.60% -0.19 0 (0)

This lack of production by the Furd backfield is reflected in the lack of run game usage by the Furd. The Standard and Pass run rates for the team rank in the bottom 30 in the nation, long are the days of Furd’s run, run, and run again offenses of yesteryear. This pass heavy offense still maintain a slow tempo (129th in adjusted tempo where the run-pass ratio’s tempo is compared to the expected tempo of such a run-pass ratio)

The struggle will be the super-sized WRs/TEs lead by JJAW and Kaden Smith. Despite the huge game by Colby Parkinson last week, JJ Costello prefers the more sure handed Smith to Parkinson with his targets (64 to 47 targets and 73.4% to 53.8% catch rates). Utah was successful in defending the large WRs/TEs in the red-zone, in this video by former USC/Pitt QB Max Browne he breaks-down the red-zone pass defense against the fade to those large players.

Per Max Browne, the DBs need to use the safeties/LBs to watch the inside, but the DBs need to play the ball rather than the receiver. We might see some Chibuzo Nwokocha in the redzone in the place of Drayden/Hicks/Beck.

He also talked about utilizing blitzes by the Utes against Furd and that it could be another avenue to kill the Furd offense. Like the Utes, Cal can go man on man against the DBs and run full steam-ahead towards JJ Costello.


This game is going to hinge on how well we can cover the Furd WRs/TEs and how well Cal can run the ball. Simple right?

As good as the Furd TEs/WRs have been in the past, I will take the TAKERS over any WR corps in the nation and this will be no different. It will be tough to cover if JJ Costello can hit the rebound type passes consistently but if the Cal pass-rush can force him to make off-platform throws then it gives Cal a chance to fight for the ball and take away the ball.

Cal needs to run the ball, and scheme ways to get Laird in and outside with the ball. Greatwood’s OL will be the stars for the Cal offense in the case of a win. However, this means the 1st down run cannot be negative or stuffed, it has to yield a 4-5 yards at a time. Which puts the onus on the offense to make a key play the first moment on the field.

Cal can win, Cal has a very good chance to win with this defense that will drag any team to the level of the average 2018 Cal offense.