Meet SP+, Justin Wilcox’s mortal enemy.
SP+ is Bill Connelly’s favorite metric and generally considered to be the gold standard of advanced metrics in college football. By looking at tempo- and opponent-adjusted measures of college football efficiency, we get a stronger sense as to how a college football team might perform, particularly when we have a large enough sample size to predict performance.
SP+ favors a ton of metrics that correlate strongly with peak performance for a college football team: Explosiveness. Efficiency. Chunk yards. Point differential.
Cal has been good at none of those things during the Wilcox era.
So the Bears have rarely moved into even the top-50 of SP+ despite finishing with winning seasons two of the last three years. The Bears finished 8-5 in 2019 and finished 74th, one of the worst marks for a Power 5 program with a winning record.
Cal is currently situated at 54th in the 2021 preseason rankings. This is definitely not due to previous performance—Cal was 86th last season in its abbreviated four-game sample size. No, it’s the returning production that is making Connelly’s model a bit more bullish on the potential of the Bears.
Here are the Pac-12 preseason rankings for SP+ for the 2021 season.
5. Oregon Ducks
11. Washington Huskies
17. USC Trojans
18. Arizona State Sun Devils
19. Utah Utes
21. UCLA Bruins
46. Washington State Cougars
50. Colorado Buffaloes
60. Oregon State Beavers
92. Arizona Wildcats