November 10, 2004

Cal at Washington

For me, this game is summed up by the fact that Cal is ranked higher nationally in scoring offense (#5) and scoring defense (#9) than UW is in the Pac-10 (# 10 in both categories). Cal wins this game 99 out of 100 tries, and it's up to them to make sure this isn't that one special case.

Polls and Rankings:
Cal: #5 AP, #6 Coaches, #4 BCS
UW: no votes received in any poll

Sagarin puts Cal at #3 in the country. Cal has 96.23 points whereas UW at #121 has just 60.76. With the 3.40 home advantage, that makes the Huskies a 32-point underdog. The bookies agree, making the Bears a 31-point favorite.

We are all quite familiar with the Huskies' coaching woes and morale problems. As others have mentioned on the list, it is amazing that the Huskies continue to draw nearly 65,000 fans per home game, second best in the Pac-10 behind USC. Considering that Oregon State is the only team within a thousand miles to play at UW this year, that average is primarily hometown UW fans. Remarkable.

Still, the fans can't play on the field (even at Stanford), and the Bears under Tedford have played their best in front of large, hostile, boistrous crowds. With morale at an all-time low on the UW team, and fan travel probably at an all-time high for Cal, this may turn out to be a benefit for the Bears.

Statistically, everything falls right in line with the Huskies' record. They are simply awful, and there's no way to sugar coat that. The only bright spot is their pass defense, which is #1 in the conference and #17 nationally at 181 yards per game. Of course, opponents run on the Huskies more and complete more passes, leading to an average of 5 fewer pass attempts per game (UW's opponents average 29 pass attempts per game, whereas the other Pac-10 teams' opponents average 34 per game.) UW also allows the highest completion percentage (60%) in the pac-10. Only two other teams allow 55% or better (Stanford and WSU), and Oregon is the league leader at 44% allowed.

UCLA is the only Pac-10 team with a worse rushing defense than the Huskies. UW allows 173.7 yards per game, 34 more per game than WSU in 8th place. They allow 4.2 yards per cary and have given up the most rushing TDs (17) in the league. This is all despite their three linebackers being #3-4-5 in tackles in the Pac-10, and DT Hopoi leading the league in both sacks (9.0) and TFL (22.0). (Ryan Riddle is right behind with 8.5 sacks and 4th in the Pac-10 with 13.0 TFL).

Washington is worst or near-worst in the league in so many categories it's sad. Meanwhile, Cal is best or near-best in so many it's almost ridiculous..

  • Cal #1 scoring offense, UW #10 scoring defense
  • Cal #2 scoring defense, UW #10 scoring offense
  • Cal #1 rushing offense, UW #9 rushing defense
  • Cal #1 total offense, UW #7 total defense
  • Cal #2 total defense, UW #9 total offense
  • Cal #2 pass defense, UW #9 pass offense
  • Cal #1 pass efficiency, UW #8 pass efficiency defense
  • Cal #1 3rd down conv, UW #9 opp 3rd down conv
  • Cal #1 red zone defenxe, UW #10 red zone offense
  • Cal #1 time of possession, UW #8 time of possession
Cal has managed to climb up to a zero turnover differential, but UW is last in the league at -15 overall (-1.67 per game). They've given up an astounding 34 turnovers, 8 more than WSU and TWENTY-ONE more than Cal, which has the fewest turnovers and fewest takeaways.

Some other gruesome, train-wreck stats from the Huskies:
  • 18 interceptions and only 5 passing TDs
  • only 38.7% completion rate on passes
  • 41 fewer first downs than Cal, in one more game
  • only 29.7% third down conversion (last in the Pac)
  • the only team to attempt 20+ fourth-down conversions (cal has tried just 7)
  • just 13.0 points scored per game
  • 29.3 points per game given up
  • 14 total TDs (1.6 per game) compared to Cal's 41 TDs (5.1 per game).
Besides pass yardage defense, UW excels in only one other statistic: They have not allowed a fourth down conversion all year in 11 tries. That actually is pretty remarkable. I don't expect them to give up any fourth down conversions this week because, frankly, I don't think Cal will ever get to fourth down.

Looking at common opponents: Both teams have played UCLA, OSU, USC, Oregon, and Arizona.

USC and Oregon stomped the Huskies, 38-0 and 31-6. Both ran for 150+ yards and attempted 35+ passes. UW had seven turnovers against the Ducks.

Notable is that UW's past four opponents have each given up at least two turnovers, and UCLA gave up three early in the year. UW has given up 21 turnovers in the past four games, and UCLA was the only game they had no turnovers (they lost to UCLA, 37-31, and UCLA had 424 yards rushing on the day). UW has given up 7 turnovers twice, and 5 or more FOUR TIMES this year. Incredible.

UCLA, the team with probably the closest rushing attack to Cal, averaged 7.9 yards per carry against the Huskies. Oregon, also similar, averaged 3.9. USC, which has a smaller and less experienced O line but also has Reggie Bush and Lendale White, averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Against USC's and Oregon's defense, the Huskies managed only 1.9 and 1.5 yards per carry, respectively, and had time of possession differentials of -18:18 and -13:14 against them. Against USC, the Huskies managed a paltry 6 first downs.

There is no reason to think Cal's game against UW will go much different from USC's or Oregon's. The only way UW could have a chance is if they end up with a very high positive turnover margin and maybe break a couple of kickoff returns for touchdowns (not likely as UW is 8th in kickoff returns, but Cal is 9th in kickoff coverage).

All in all, I don't expect a lot of passing by the Bears. I see no reason to pass the ball except to confuse the linebackers and stretch the field. The Cal O line should be able to exploit the two freshmen on UW's D line, and Arrington should be able to get 200, maybe 250 yards, unless he gets injured. If the Bears can avoid turning over the ball, the defense may throw another shutout.

I have to admit there is the outside possibility of "Senior Day" causing such an emotional kick that UW plays their best game of the last three years and makes it close. Realistically, however, the Huskies must be entirely demoralized and looking forward to the Apple Cup to redeem their season and send Gilby out like Joe Kapp.

You heard it here first: Cal is probably going to win this one. My prediction: Cal 52, UW 10. I don't see how this could be called woofing when you look at the stats. But I'll wait until Sunday to feel bad for the Huskies and their fans.

Go Bears!

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