FanPost

Inside the Numbers: USC vs. Cal

Stephen Dunn

A look at the upcoming game using S&P+ and FEI.

S&P+ is created by Bill Connelly. S&P+ is an advanced statistical measure, which combines success rate, explosiveness per play and opponent adjustments. For an explanation of the terms used, see here, here, and here.

How S&P+ sees the game:

S&P says that the offense improved slightly against Oregon State, dropping from #80 to #76. The love affair with the defense continues, as the Trojans have moved up to #3 behind only Michigan State and Virginia Tech.

Overall When USC Has the Ball… When Cal has the Ball…
Category USC Cal USC Off Cal Def USC Def Cal Off
F/+ Rk 8 93
S&P+ 11 (250.7) 92 (189.2) 76 (94.6) 90 (96.9) 3 (137.3) 83 (92.3)
Play Efficiency 58 (103) 75 (97.5) 5 (137.3) 82 (95.4)
Std. Downs S&P+ 36 (111.3) 48 (104.9) 2 (149.0) 74 (99.5)
Pass Downs S&P+ 69 (97.5) 91 (92.1) 14 (128.5) 70 (97.0)
Rushing S&P+ 40 (112.5) 39 (110.2) 11 (131.6) 105 (86.8)
Passing S&P+ 57 (102.4) 84 (93.9) 7 (143.2) 70 (98.3)
Drive Efficiency 95 (86.1) 94 (96.3) 2 (174.9) 82 (89.2)
Difference in Net Points 56 (-.04) 113 (0.64) 46 (-0.74) 107 (-1.05)

When USC has the ball…

For once, the USC offense actually holds an advantage in the passing game. The Golden Bears defense has performed decently on standard downs and against the run. On the other hand, Cal has been really bad on passing downs and defending the pass. Teams that have fallen behind schedule have been able to get first downs against this defense.

When Cal has the ball…

The Trojan defense has large advantages over the Cal offense in all categories. According to S&P, the Golden Bears are a dumpster fire on offense when compared to the USC defense. They are especially bad running the ball as they rank #105 in rushing S&P+.

FEI is the Fremeau Efficiency Index, created by Brian Fremeau. FEI is an advanced statistical measure for college football that tracks drive efficiency instead of per play success. For an explanation of the terms used, see here, here, and here.

How FEI sees the game:

After the performance against Oregon State, the offense improved in the ratings as the defense continued to be ranked at #3. Cal is rated in the bottom third of all FBS teams with their offense and defense both coming in at #93.

Overall When USC Has the Ball… When Cal has the Ball…
Category USC Cal USC Off Cal Def USC Def Cal Off
F/+ Rk 8 93
FEI Rk 13 (.216) 95 (-.130) 29 (.274) 93 (.199) 3 (-.797) 93 (-.247)
Field Position 35 (.527) 122 (.420)
Raw OE/DE 83 (-.192) 109 (.431) 8 (-.524) 112 (-.546)
First Down rate 89 (.640) 106 (.750) 17 (.579) 100 (.607)
Available Yards Rate 85 (.409) 115 (.587) 8 (.343) 104 (.371)
Explosive Drives 67 (.126) 101 (.180) 43 (.103) 111 (.065)
Methodical Drives 111 (.081) 67 (.150) 46 (.131) 44 (.168)
Value Drives 86 (.348) 112 (.524) 9 (.271) 95 (.320)
Special Team rank 68 (-.141) 79 (-.530)
Field Goal efficiency 94 (-.223) 22 (.535)
Punt Return efficiency 23 (.072) 103 (-.212)
Kickoff return efficiency 100 (-.260) 79 (-.206)
punt efficiency 97 (.022) 107 (.089)
kickoff efficiency 27 (-.253) 47 (-.212)

When USC has the ball…

The Trojan offense is still rated below average according to FEI but still has a significant advantage over the Cal defense in all categories except methodical drives. The Golden Bears are only mediocre when it comes to preventing long drives but USC is downright horrible at sustaining drives.

When Cal has the ball…

FEI says that the USC defense holds an overwhelming advantage against the Bear offense in all categories except for methodical drives, where USC is ranked #46 and Cal is ranked #44. Even in this category, the Trojans hold a slight advantage in the raw numbers (.131 to .168). Cal’s offense has shown competence when they’ve had to be patient and sustain drives through their short passing game.

Special Teams…

This is another week where the Trojans hold an advantage in the punting game. Cal is currently ranked #103 in punt return efficiency. As for the field goal unit, this is a clear win for the Golden Bears.

What it all means…

The USC offense had its best performance since the 1st half of the Arizona game against Oregon State last week, led by the resurgent passing game. This should continue against a Cal defense that has had problems against the pass. Falling behind schedule should not be the death sentence that it usually is for the USC offense. The return of Xavier Grimble and a healthy Marquis Lee should help Cody Kessler make some big plays downfield.

As noted in the S&P and FEI ratings, the Golden Bears do not do anything on offense well. Quarterback Jared Goff has struggled all year executing the "Bear Raid" offense, which is to be expected of a true freshman. This week, he faces a USC defense that is coming off of a stretch of three games in which they’ve only allowed two touchdowns total. Strictly based on the numbers, this does not look good for the Golden Bears. USC should win this game, and win it going away.

An extra word about special teams. The punt return versus punt coverage rankings in this contest gives the advantage to USC. Having a punt return unit that performs consistently well will result in "hidden" yards that are absent from the traditional box score. These "hidden" yards can help an offense that is not adept at picking up yardage on a consistent basis or commits drive-killing penalties. Even with the high ranking, the punt return unit is not going to break a big one every week, the sample size is just too small.

Add your thoughts or anything I might've missed to the comments. Fight on and beat the Bears!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Conquest Chronicles' writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Conquest Chronicles' writers or editors.

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