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Rating the Bears: Redbox Bowl

A satisfying win closes the most successful season of the 2010s.

Redbox Bowl - California v Illinois Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 2010s were not a particularly kind decade the Bears. For only the third time in the decade we finished the season with a win. The other wins were Jared Goff’s final game as a Bear, the Air Force Bowl victory in 2015. The other...? A season-closing win over UCLA in 2016, probably one of the least memorable blowout wins over UCLA in recent history. While the Redbox Bowl itself may not be particularly memorable, the win feels like a springboard into an exciting 2020 season. But more on that in a moment, for now let’s review our ratings for the game.

Rating the Bears

Average Standard Deviation
Pass Offense 89.5 7.3
Rush Offense 79.1 14.0
Pass Defense 73.3 15.3
Rush Defense 72.9 14.8
Special Teams 72.8 16.2
Coaching 87.5 9.6
Overall 88.1 8.3
Wins in 2020 8.93 1.12

In a shocking turn of events compared to the previous 37 games of the Wilcox Era, pass offense leads all categories. Chase Garbers’ offensive MVP-winning performance (as well as a pleasantly drop-free afternoon from the tight ends) kept the ball moving enough to put up a season-high 35 points. Christopher Brown Jr and the ground game put up pretty good scores too.

Although both components were outscored by the offense, the defense put up strong but not spectacular scores. Special teams bounced back from a string of mediocre performances with a decent outing. Overall and Coaching fared very well and brought a pleasant conclusion to the Beau Baldwin offense.

To get a sense of how we’re feeling heading into the 2020 season, I had you pick the number of regular-season wins you expect from the Bears next season. With an average of 8.93 wins, we’re feeling pretty good about 2020! Even if I take out the homers who picked 12 wins, we still average 8.8 wins. And before you start thinking that this must be a bunch of win-induced euphoria, recall that in last year’s Cheez It Bowl ratings we predicted 6.91 wins. Clearly our foresight is unaffected by dreadful offensive outings or satisfying wins. 9 wins, here we come!

Ratings Comparison

CGB didn’t exist the last time we played Illinois, so instead of comparing this game to past games against the Fighting Illini, we’ll compare it to other recent games against non-conference Power 5 foes.

Comparing the Redbox Bowl performance (gold) to other recent games against non-conference Power 5 teams.

While the Overall score is the highest we’ve seen, the rest of the categories compare pretty favorably. It was one of the best offensive outings and one of the better defensive performances against an OOC P5 team. Owing to the high standards set by Wilcox and DeRuyter, the defensive ratings compare less favorably when we compare this to all games since 2007.

Comparing the Redbox Bowl performance (gold) to other performances in the Wilcox Era (blue).

How fortunate are we that holding a team to 20 points is a middle-of-the-pack performance for this defense? On three occasions this season we held an opponent to three or fewer TDs and still lost thanks to a combination of offensive injuries and ineptitude. Had this offense (which earned the highest Pass Offense scores we’ve seen in the Wilcox Era) been available for the ASU, Oregon, and OSU games, we might be looking at a 10-3 or 11-2 record. Suddenly those 9-win predictions for next season don’t seem so outlandish...


For one final time this season we’re handing out our awards for the highest, lowest, and most average scores.

Sunshine Pumpers

First, we have the highest scores of the week.

Name Rating
1. David Shaw is NOT bowling!!! 700 (100.0%)
1. RememberTheCalamo 700 (100.0%)
3. Wiata78 689 (98.4%)
4. Old Bear 71 660 (94.3%)
5. TKE Prytanis 79 651 (93.0%)

Only two perfect scores? Interesting. Although I suppose that makes sense that a comfortable win over a middling Big Ten team doesn’t engender much over-the-top enthusiasm.

Old Blues

Next, the lowest scores of the week.

Name Rating
1. GERBEAR 360 (51.4%)
2. ShanghaiDave 390 (55.7%)
3. brooklynbear 429 (61.3%)
4. Poohbears 450 (64.3%)
4. Canes 450 (64.3%)

Other than that pair of scores in the 50s, these were all passing scores! At least, according to a point scale where 60 is a D-. According to some grading curves at Cal, a 60 is an A. A grades for everyone!

The Voice of Reason

Finally, we have those whose rating were closest to the community average.

Name Deviation
1. sacalum 3.41
2. goldenone 3.93
3. Axlbear 4.00
4. mrjpark 4.00
5. Berkelium97 4.33

There always seems to be some Sacramento-named participant in this award: sacalum, sacman701. What is it that makes you all so reasonable?

And for one final time, let’s take a look at your comments about the game?


Any comments on the gameday experience?

  • Art the Collector - Such a beautiful outcome on such an ugly day!
  • GuMiBears - So excited to watch a team I care about after so many weeks. Still sat on my couch under a blanket though cause its freezing.
  • Goldenone - Beautiful day in Santa Clara
  • CountryBlue - Watching this game was one of the most satisfying and enjoyable experiences of my 30 years as a fan. It was a very fine end to one heck of a tough season that wrapped up beautifully; I am very excited about rooting for this team in 2020, Go Bears! And I hope we will have more fans at the games because that makes them all the more fun.
  • Christopher_h - It was nice to finally meet some of the other CGB writers in person (at the tailgate outside the RedBox Bowl), all very nice people. Had a blast at the game too. Always fun to see a Cal game in person.
  • CoBears - So happy to have a Cal bowl game to watch. And even happier to celebrate a win. Go Bears! Nice launch into 2020!
  • Old Bear 71 - Amazing! I left home just before kickoff to take UncleSam22 to Raleigh-Durham airport for long flight home Ro Bay Area. Before we left he set up the DVR to record the game. Wasn’t that thoughtful?! So, when I returned from airport - a three hour round trip- the Mrs. and I cued up the game and wahoo, just like real time! We even figured out how to fast forward through the commercials and halftime report. (Eye roll from everyone under sixty). After Illinois hopped out to the lead, the Bears got serious about football again, the rest of the way was really fun to watch!

What are your thoughts on Cal’s passing game?

  • BTown85 - Garbers is gonna Garbers!
  • Ososdeoro - Chase and his mates were really good, all day long, especially considering Illinois was focusing on keeping the QB from running.
  • Sacman701 - Generally very effective, with the three sacks being the only negative. Importantly, no picks.
  • Sacalum - Chase went through his progressions and was accurate with his throws. The receivers made nice catches all day, and the TEs have really improved. Can’t wait to see all of them next year.
  • Texashaterforlife - Cal’s best passing game all year and Garber’s best game so far in his college career.
  • RememberTheCalamo - I really hope this version of Chase Garbers comes back next year.
  • CamHand - CG should have carved up IU’s secondary and mostly did with decent combo of percentage plays to move the chains and decent depth, NO INT’s, 4 TD’s, enough exp, 4 TD’s are sweet and kept red zone percentage up
  • Bowlesman80 - Garbers and the receivers were on fire! Against the 3rd best defense in the country? Wait, what is this turn around? Was BB holding out on us?

What are your thoughts on Cal’s running game?

  • Art the Collector - Brown is a hammer and we’re bringing in some scat backs to compliment
  • CamHand - Plenty good enough, would have like a little higher YPC (excluding Brown’s big run) esp. to jack time of possession even higher but it did the job esp. since fear of more big runs may have helped the passing game
  • ToddMal - Brown is great, but the other RB’s didn’t do much. Need those guys to step up in ‘20
  • TD_24 - Imagine CBJ as an upperclassman...oh my god.
  • ShanghaiDave - We have the backs but need the lanes
  • ak_A - a tweak here & there from backs and lineman and we may be on to something
  • Heyalumnigo - Brown ran hard and looked really good. That stiff arm on the 54 yd gain in the 1st was Marshawnesque.
  • Mrjpark- Christopher Brown is the real deal. He’s the type of back I like to play in Madden. With our entire offensive line back, he’s going to have a career year next year.
  • Pepe Le Pew - Much improved from last season but needs another running back with explosiveness speed to compliment C. Brown, Jr

What are your thoughts on Cal’s pass defense?

  • Oskioftarth - A few lapses in the pass defense were largely compensated for with generally good coverage and enough pressure on Peters to take some of the pressure off of our DBs
  • GBearSoCal - Needs more athletic DBs
  • Wiata78 - Missing AD a bit but otherwise good
  • CoBears - Not as good as expected, but held up well in the red zone. Unsure if Peters is just really good or if we just made him look good. We have some work to do to retake the “Takers” name that we have lacked this season.
  • Heyalumnigo - Looked good and I think only gave up 1 long pass. And if I remember it was well defended and required a perfect throw.
  • TD_24 - Man the amount of interceptions Anusiem could’ve had today was encouraging I’m ready for the new takers.
  • Texashaterforlife - I was worried about Cal’s secondary missing Ashtyn Davis; silly me. Now I am not so worried for next year, even if Bynum leaves early.
  • CamHand - Only 1 TD plus 1 INT deep (when it counted most!), made Peters keep working until the field was short, IU just could never win without big plays

What are your thoughts on Cal’s run defense?

  • Bowlesman80 - A bit vulnerable, at first, but awesome in the second half.
  • GuMiBears - Tightened up after 1st quarter also.
  • CamHand - Good enough, gave up over 4 YPC but back breaking long runs, as long as IU was fighting the long field and playing behind this was just what the doctor ordered
  • The Ghost of Joe Roth- Pretty solid other than the QB runs in the first half.
  • TD_24 - This was not as good but only along the edges, Illinois broke contain a lot more than I would’ve liked especially in the first half.
  • Sacman701 - We got the better of Illinois’ backs, who failed to break 100 yards despite 30 carries. Peters gashed us, but scrambles are really part of the passing game, not the running game.
  • Pepe Le Pew - Much improved but would like to see more stops behind the line of scrimmage

What are your thoughts on Cal’s special teams?

  • CoBears - Good coverage for the most part. The short kick before half was inexplicable.
  • Ososdeoro - No errors. Nothing spectacular either. Are the Bears going to figure out that unless they have DeSean Jackson back there on kickoffs they’re never going to make the 25 yard line? Or has the staff decided that the 5 or 10 yards they give up (with the possibility also of a penalty) by not fair catching the kickoff is inconsequential to the remote possibility of a kickoff return going for long yardage?
  • Bowlesman80 - Better! Good coverage. And, uh, why are we catching punts and kicks near the five?
  • GuMiBears - Greg almost looked like he was gonna get blocked on PATs, but it would just squeak in. Good enough!
  • Sacalum - Overall, pretty decent except for that strange pooch kick off and Nikko’s decision to return a punt from our goal line.
  • Old Bear 71 - KO’s were a little short, I think, but coverage was good and five Made extra points felt comfortable again.
  • Teepee - I have been frustrated all year by the punting game -- am definitely not a fan of the Australian punting strategy -- too often the cover team does not have the chance to get downfield and do their jobs. Get a punter that gives some hang time!
  • Lucky1715 - Meh. Again. Not great punting, nor kickoffs. Receiving was fine. Special Teams needs to improve A LOT for 2020.
  • CountryBlue - Very good team play on special teams, much better than earlier in the season.

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

  • Bowlesman80 - BB goes out with a bang. Maybe, just maybe, people have been too harsh on BB, but ZI still think it’s for the best. Wilcox needs an absolute Blue Chip OC, since he reportedly concentrates on D. Dunno’, but I am so happy Wilcox is on our side. And Wilcox, GA, and Deruyter are our treasure!
  • Art the Collector - Great game plan. Finally opened it up!
  • Goldenlikethebears - Where was this offense Beau?! Holding out on us?
  • ToddMal - Best game Baldwin called. Vertical passes, good mix run-pass 37-31. Defense seemed cautious.
  • Texashaterforlife - Baldwin did not mail it in. And I wish him the best of luck at Cal Poly in the future. Well, except when Cal plays them next year.
  • ShanghaiDave - If BB had this type of game plan during the year (and Garbers), we would have given him a nice extension
  • Heyalumnigo - Loved BB’s playcalling. The first TD to the wide open TE reminded me of the calls Tedford used to make. Defense tightened up after the first few drives.
  • BearOnAMesa - Cal once again turtled too soon and lost its 4th quarter offense entirely. If there’s no interception late in the 4th, it’s potentially a one score game again. Entirely avoidable given how well the offense as clicking before then! Hopefully the change at OC will fix this but I’m not certain it will.
  • CoBears - Beat the pants off Lovie Smith and his staff. Offensively, looked creative. Defensively, looked good when it counted. The game was never really in doubt. The Bears looked well-prepared and did themselves and the PAC-12 proud.
  • CountryBlue - I love Coach Wilcox and I think this was one of his best games. Same for the rest of the coaches.

What are your thoughts on Cal’s overall performance?

  • Art the Collector - Fantastic way to end the season. Can’t wait until next year! Go Bears!
  • Poohbears - A good three game winning streak heading into the home of The Pride And Poise Boys, and their Commitment To Excellence, and their tenants, UNLV.
  • TKE Prytanis 79 - Can not wait until 2020....huge up side and momentum to build upon.
  • ShanghaiDave - Gives me an inordinate amount of high hope for next year but is restrained by my natural skepticism as a lifelong Cal fan.
  • Old Bear 71 - A fitting conclusion to a solid campaign. Good execution overall, solid coaching, and flashing some good potential for next season. I was really satisfied with this win over a team from the Big”ten!”
  • Teepee - A great win for the Bears and a important step in the right direction.
  • Lucky1715 - Great. We needed that win for so many reasons. I hope it helps recruiting of both players AND staff. A heartfelt goodbye and thank you to the outgoing players and coaches, too. Thanks everyone! #GoBears
  • Sacman701 - This was our usual formula this year. The offense was efficient if not exactly overwhelming, and the defense bent but seldom broke. A good end to a good season.
  • Oskioftarth - Was an above-average performance for the team which bodes well for the future. We are still not the class of the Pac-12, but a comfortable win of this type puts us in the top half.
  • CountryBlue - Supremely satisfying.
  • ak_A - More wins - at least 9 is definitely in the cards.
  • The Ghost of Joe Roth - JUST WIN BABY!

Well, that wraps up our tenth season running this series. Thanks to all of you who participated just once or who participated after all thirteen games. In the coming weeks I will look back at the 2019 season to see how our expectations matched (or failed to match) reality. And after that we’ll look back at the entire decade of the 2010s to revisit the best and the worst games of our Rating the Bears series. The 2019 football season may be over, but I’m not going into hibernation quite yet...