U C Davis: Pardon the Hype, Can They Play Defense?
Here’s what I said about U C Davis back in July when I gave my analysis of Brian McLaughlin from Hero Sports and Craig Healey from Athlon Sport’s preview on the top FCS teams coming into 2019. “I see U C Davis as where Eastern Washington was before last year. They played bad defense. For them to be a serious Frisco threat they will need to find a new gear on that side of the ball. But is that really going to happen for 2019? They lose half their starters and the coach was quoted as saying can anybody really play good defense now days? The answer to that is yes, the Bison have done it for 50+ years and especially the last eight.
How bad was Davis defense last year? They gave up 431.8 YPG in total defense. 185.3 of it was rushing YPG and they surrendered 27.8 PPG. All their defensive statistical averages were worse than their opponents averaged against all other teams. Putting it another way, U C Davis was a team you needed to play if you wanted to improve your offensive statistics. Let’s delve into this a little deeper. Against FBS and top 25 FCS Sagarin rated teams they gave up 464.5 YPG, 187.3 YPG in rushing and 33 PPG. The rushing totals are even worse when you consider San Jose State was the worst rushing team in the FBS (129th) and Stanford wasn’t much better at 122nd worst. In summary, I see U C Davis as the media darlings based on the offensive side of the ball ONLY. Until proven otherwise, that’s the wrong formula.”
What have they done in the first three games to substantiate or repudiate my take? They still are playing defense at the same low level of last year. But Ron, they beat Lehigh last week 43-13. We beat Butler 57-10. Big Deal. Both are really low ranked teams (220 Lehigh, 246 Butler). Other than some development of depth and spit and polish, these games mean little to nothing in how good you are.
The Aggies opened the season against Cal. and lost 27-13. That sounds like a close game. Cal. committed 4 turnovers and fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. Davis couldn’t use this as momentum to pull off the upset. The Aggies gave up 471 total yards, including 233 yards rushing and no sacks. The Bison rank 20 teams ahead of Cal. in Sagarin, even though they are FBS. On offense Davis could only muster 262 total yards and 83 rushing. I think Code Green is better than the Golden Bear’s defense. Other than the score, Davis got spanked.
Next they played the University of San Diego. We are familiar with them from the playoffs. They are a well-coached team with smart players but are from the same non-scholarship league as Butler. The teams we faced in the playoffs were ranked much higher than this year’s team (127,152 versus 192). We beat them 45-7 and 38-3. The Aggies should have lost. On the last play of the game the Torero’s RB fumbled the winning touchdown into the end zone. So, the mighty Aggies hang onto a 38-35 win. This stout defense gave up 413 total yards and 174 rushing. In our playoff wins we gave up an average of 235 total yards and only 78.5 rushing.
The Aggies are still playing bad defense to start this year. I don’t think it is going to change this weekend at the Fargo Dome. I also don’t think they are going to be able to consistently run the ball. They might be able to move the ball some between the 20’s, but I think in the end they will perform no better than they did against the Golden Bears of Cal.
Sagarin has the Bison between a 26.2 & 27.2 point favorite and a 94% chance of winning. Early Vegas has the Herd by over 25 points (no current odds listed at time of posting). I will go with the guys who win or lose money.
PS I am also writing Bison football articles at the Bison Report at 247 Sports. If you want to know about Bison recruiting and be exposed to what I feel are the best of Bison pundits, I think you will find the modest subscription fee worth it. Just published an article called “How in the world did we lose? Take the quiz.