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Interactive Graphics: It’s Cal Week for WSU (gulp)

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Still, there are reasons to believe the Cougs could exorcise some demons in this one.

Washington State v Oregon Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Our beloved Washington State Cougars head to Strawberry Canyon to face the California Golden Bears. WSU is 3-6 in Berkeley since the turn of the century, with their last win in 2014 2013 on a fluky day where the Cougar defense forced a bunch of turnovers deep in their own territory in an otherwise even game. I believe 7-5 is still on the table this season — and, if I’ve had a few too many, 8-4 (never mind, we ain’t winning Apple Cup) — but there is some weird voodoo down in the Bay WSU has to contend with.

The Cougar offense is awesome. The only WSU QB in the Mike Leach era to outpace Anthony Gordon through 8 games in passing yards is Connor Halliday in 2014, who had an insane 3,833 yards at this same point in the season. Much of the talk this week has centered around the matchup between the WSU offense and Cal’s defense, but I think WSU has proven they can move the ball on just about any defense; SP+ still has the Cougs as the #4 offense in the country.

However, what has me excited about the Cougs’ chances this week is how awful the Golden Bears are on offense. The below chart looks at yards per play for every offense in the country for each week. The idea is to see if a team is trending up or down as the season goes on. Cal hasn’t been above 4 yards per play since they played Ole Miss. They’re also bottom in the Pac-12 in sack rate. There’s a great opportunity for the Cougar defense to make some plays.

If you’re coming from Twitter, Google AMP or Apple News click this link to see the chart and return to the post. For optimal viewing on mobile tilt your phone horizontal.

Watch Party Talking Points When Cal Has The Ball

  • Cal offense hasn’t been above 4 yards per play yet in Pac-12 play
  • WSU’s best performance on defense in yards per play was vs Colorado (4.5)
  • Cal is going to run and run and run once inside the WSU 40: the Golden Bears run the ball 66% of the time once inside the 40, good for #1 in the Pac-12
  • Cal is yet to go for it on 4th down in the red zone – they’re also bad at finishing drives with TDs, ranking 91st. The WSU defense is decent at stopping team’s from scoring TDs when they have a scoring opportunity (trip inside the 40)

The chart below compares the Cal offense to WSU’s defense in a bunch of key stats. Aside from the above points, the one thing that concerns me is while Cal is not all that explosive, their best ranking in the stat is in the running game. Get those run fits right and tackle and WSU should be able to get off the field.

If you’re coming from Twitter, Google AMP or Apple News click this link to see the chart and return to the post. For optimal viewing on mobile tilt your phone horizontal.

Watch Party Talking Points When WSU Has The Ball

  • WSU’s offense hasn’t been below 6.5 yards per play in any game outside of Utah. Last week vs Utah, Cal gave up highest yards per play of season at 6.5
  • Cal is very bend, don’t break. They’re 30th in limiting explosive plays and 14th in limiting TDs on scoring opportunities (trips inside the 40)
  • The Golden Bears are 97th in rushing success rate and 91st in stuff rate — 100 yards on the ground is on the table for Max Borghi.

Below compares the WSU offense to the Cal defense. The Cougs are 12th in the country in finishing scoring opportunities with touchdowns. This version of the Cal defense isn’t great at forcing turnovers or creating negative running plays, and WSU should move the ball efficiently up and down the field. I imagine this game will look a lot like the Oregon one, where Anthony Gordon and the Cougar offense get into the red zone but struggle on their first few trips before finding their way to paydirt. I hope if Cal throws a 5-man box inside the 5 yard line that Gordon backs up his comments about not being afraid of Evan Weaver and gives Max Borghi a chance to get 6.

If you’re coming from Twitter, Google AMP or Apple News click this link to see the chart and return to the post. For optimal viewing on mobile tilt your phone horizontal.

In a season that has been snakebitten by bad luck, this game couldn’t be setting up better for a great performance. The weather is going to be great, the offense just went on the road and stood toe to toe vs one of the better defenses in the country and the defense has a soft landing off of a bye week to get some confidence. I honestly really missed WSU football last weekend and I’m bummed we only have hopefully 5 more times to watch this team. Gordon is balling; may the offense exorcise some Justin Wilcox demons and set up a great finish to the season.