clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Opponent Offense Preview: Cal Golden Bears

New, 64 comments

Unless you like car crashes, avert your eyes.

NCAA Football: UC - Davis at California Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

While the Justin Wilcox era at Cal brought immediate and substantial improvement on defense, the offense has been stuck in the mud. This season, OC Beau Baldwin faces the challenge to show signs of life on offense and help out a stellar defense. They’ve only played UC Davis so far, but it doesn’t look like many questions were answered.

With further ado, I give you the Cal offense.

Key Stats (last season)

Adjust pace: 71st

Standard downs run rate: 96th (they threw the ball a lot on first and second down)

Chase Garbers YPC: 5.8

Pass yards per game: 186.2

Rush yards per game: 157.3

Solo tackles created: 45th

Team interceptions thrown: 20

Offensive Philosophy

When Cal brought in Baldwin as the former HC at Eastern Washington, the expectation was he’d spread things out and speed them up. But ultimately, Cal played 2018 at a fairly average pace and the results just weren’t there as they finished the season averaging a paltry 21.5 points per game.

Cal will throw the ball a bit, and especially on early downs; that is in Beau Baldwin’s blood. A dangerous, quick passing game and grind-it-out run game are the goals, and Cal hasn’t really gotten close to reaching them. They typically line up in shotgun, with the QB bringing in a man in motion; either a wide receiver or RB running a flare route to act as the checkdown. Running backs don’t usually stay in for pass protection and are always a threat to catch a pass. But overall, the goal of an offense like this is to call plays that create mismatches and easy completions for a QB. Getting the ball out fast is critical for the offense to work. They sometimes like to find the TEs over the middle as well. Typically the run game from this offense is out of the shotgun with zone read type of runs, but you will see them mix in some under-center runs from the single-back formation. With newly found bruiser in RB Chris Brown, expect more under-center power running this year as Cal tries to find anything to hang its hat on offensively.

Cal lost a ton off last year’s bad offense. It’s always hard to tell in these situations whether that’s a good or bad thing, but even after just one game some new potential playmakers may have emerged.

Players to Watch

Multiple independent sources inside the Cal football offices have confirmed they will use the same depth chart that they did last week against the Aggies of UC Davis. Well, they would confirm it if they answered my calls:

RB Chris Brown Jr.

The sophomore Brown is a really physical runner standing at 6-1, 230 pounds. He was a workhorse last week against UC Davis, rushing 36 times for 197 yards, showing some hard running. He’s the first Golden Bear to rush for over 100 yards in his first start since Jahvid Best in 2008. If you’re a Cal fan hopefully that is a sign of things to come (good running back things, not Best’s awful injury record).

QB Chase Garbers

Garbers was a bit of a surprise starter last year and struggled along with the entire Cal attack. He lacks weapons outside, but the pass game led by Garbers hasn’t been particularly efficient or explosive. He completes over 60% of his passes, which is a good start, but anything deep is usually incomplete or intercepted, and short routes are snuffed out quickly.

He throws a decent ball but had one very bad interception against the UC Davis on a poor throw and read. When the offense is “working” he can make things happen, but struggles being a creator when things break down. If Chase Garbers is running around, that is not a good thing for the Bear O.

WR Kekoa Crawford

The former Michigan Wolverine was brought in to bolster the Cal attack, especially downfield passing. He wasn’t particularly efficient at Michigan but showed some explosiveness; at this point Cal should take whatever it can get with regard to offensive weapons. He had a great debut against UC Davis last week, catching two TDs. One was off a tipped pass he caught in the end zone, and the other he caught in the open field and raced mostly untouched into the end zone. Beginner’s luck, or does he have the “it” factor for a WR?

X-Factor

Cal’s new faces (Crawford and Brown) against a young-ish UW defense. Let me start by saying that Cal’s offense should struggle on Saturday. The Huskies have more than enough talent, depth, and experience to stifle the Bears. There isn’t anything to suggest that their performance against UC Davis is a sign of an offense finding its feet, but the “emergence” of Crawford and Brown is intriguing. Crawford’s TDs might have been on the lucky side, but a two-score performance by a brand new player in a struggling offense is encouraging. Could a couple fluky passes end up in his hands, gifting Cal a TD or short field? Then there is Chris Brown. I doubt he explodes in Husky Stadium for a huge game, but a physical runner such as himself can be a pain late in games if it’s close. If UW is unprepared for either of those two players, this game could be closer than we expect. The UW defensive line should have an advantage over a Cal OL that gave up 36 sacks last season—nearly 3 per game.

Conclusion

If Cal manages more than two scores (13 points max), something weird will have happened. The end.

Poll

How Many Points Will Cal Score on Saturday?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    0-7
    (109 votes)
  • 53%
    8-14
    (476 votes)
  • 27%
    15-21
    (247 votes)
  • 4%
    22-28
    (40 votes)
  • 1%
    29-35
    (11 votes)
  • 1%
    36 or more (lol)
    (14 votes)
897 votes total Vote Now