The 2016 Pac-12 conference season is officially starting this weekend for the Arizona State Sun Devils, as the Cal Bears come to prowl the premises around Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night. In Cal, the Devils will be facing yet another Air Raid passing team in the nation’s second leading passing offense. The Bears new signal caller is no stranger to ASU in Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb, who beat the Sun Devils in the 2013 Holiday Bowl.
Cal has had its way with the Devils lately winning nine out of the last twelve contest, but are just 1-1 against Todd Graham. This will be only the second meeting between Graham and current Cal coach Sonny Dykes, who beat the Devils last year in Berkeley 48-46. Let’s see what the stats say about the Cal Bears offense and defense for 2016.
Stats are based on the games played on the 2016 season.
This Week’s Stat 12-Pack
1. In the first three games of 2016 ASU has forced only two turnovers; the average over the same period for Graham’s other ASU squads have been 5.75.
2. In 2016, Cal’s defense has allowed 15 rushing first downs per game, while ASU has only allowed 3.3 first downs per game on the ground over the same time period.
3. The Cal defense so far this year has forced more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed (4-to-3 ratio).
4. In the first half of its games this season, the Cal offense has had roughly 16-percent of its pass attempts gain 15+ yards, while in the second half, it jumps to 30-percent of the pass attempts.
5. Cal wide receivers have accounted for 92-percent of the team’s receptions.
6. Only three of the 13 touchdown passes for the Cal offense in 2016 have been when the Bears had the lead.
7. Roughly, 70-percent of the touchdown passes for the Bears offense have happened outside their opponents’ red zone.
8. The Bears defense has not allowed a second half touchdown pass.
9. The Bears defense has only given up one pass reception over 25+ yards in the second half of their games this year
10. Cal is throwing the ball 63-percent of the time this season, whereas over the previous two years with Jared Goff at quarterback, Cal passed the ball roughly 55-percent of the time.
11. Cal has scored only once on the ground in the second half of their games so far.
12. ASU ended the last four game of 2015 with a +8 turnover margin, but are -3 so far in 2016.
Decoding the Stats
ASU will be facing yet another Air Raid team this Saturday that will probably gobble up passing yards and score a slew of points against their defense. That’s just going to be the case unless one or more of the following happens; Cal turns the ball over multiple times, the ASU offense eats up a significant amount of time off the clock, or the ASU defense stiffens around its own red zone forcing the Golden Bears into field goal attempts rather than touchdowns. If none of those happen, then the Devils may need to work for a shootout. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Cal defense seems to let opponents match its offense in scoring, thus setting the stage for a shootout.
The 2016 stats point out two obvious facts, that the Devils should be able to run the ball against the Cal Bear defense, and that the Cal offense should be able to complete a high percentage of passes and gain chunks of ground against the ASU defense. They also point out that ASU should be able to score touchdowns once inside the Bears red zone.
The numbers also show an ASU offense that doesn’t score many first quarter points, but comes on strong in the fourth quarter, and a Cal Bear offense that does the majority of its scoring in the first half. They also show an ASU run defense that is somewhat stingy, and a Cal pass defense that has been the stronger performer on the defensive side of the ball.
ASU, under Todd Graham has had its best seasons when its turnover margin is in the positive double digit range. So far this year, the Devils are looking at a net negative turnover margin. That’s an anomaly for a Todd Graham coached defense; yards may be surrendered, but getting turnovers are a given. Since 2012 under coach Todd Graham, ASU is 22-8 when they win the turnover battle in a game and just 7-9 when they lose the turnover battle. The Devils thrive on getting turnovers.
The current three game winning streak will not continue for long unless the turnover margin starts trending positive for ASU. Devil fans are hoping that positive trend begins this Saturday leading to a fourth win this season.
Sources: Pac-12.com & cfbstats.com