Widgets Magazine

Predictions: The 118th Big Game

No. 15 Stanford (8-2, 7-1 Pac-12) vs. California (6-4, 3-4)

ParkMugshotDo-Hyoung Park: Stanford 48, California 24

I don’t buy the whole “anything can happen in a rivalry game” thing that everybody preaches going into Big Game. Stanford’s football team is better than California’s football team, period. No ifs, ands and buts about it. Cal’s defense is not going to be able to stop Christian McCaffrey and Stanford’s offensive line at the point of attack, and Stanford will hold the ball for more than 35 minutes and score on most of its possessions. Jared Goff and Cal will definitely put up points over the top against a Stanford secondary playing without Ronnie Harris, but Stanford’s front seven is talented and disruptive enough — especially as of late — to pressure Goff into some bad decisions and force Cal into mistakes that will stall the Bears’ offense a few times. I’m not convinced that a good game against Oregon State will have been enough to snap Goff out of his funk. Saturday will mark the 25th Big Game since the dramatic finish of 1990, but there won’t be any drama in this game — Stanford runs away with it, holds the Axe for a sixth straight year and clinches the Pac-12 North.

MichaelMugshotMichael Peterson: Stanford 49, California 31

Unlike Do, I do buy the “anything can happen in a rivalry game.” Just ask Texas, who somehow pulled off the upset of Oklahoma that could keep the Sooners out of the playoff in the Red River rivalry. However, like Do, I also firmly believe that Stanford is too talented offensively not to dominate this game on that side of the football. If Stanford avoids turning the ball over — Cal’s defense is fifth in the nation in forcing turnovers — it will run ragged against Cal’s defense, which otherwise is again very lackluster. The game will come down to the Stanford secondary showing that it can stop big plays, something it failed doing last week against Oregon. Cal doesn’t have nearly the same kind of offensive weaponry as Oregon, though, particularly at running back, so my bet is on the Stanford defense getting enough stops to get the job done. Chalk up a bounce-back game for the Stanford secondary, another 100-yard game for Christian McCaffrey and more brilliant play calls from David Shaw in a Stanford semi-rout.

AndrewMatherheadshotAndrew Mather: Stanford 35, California 31

I’m the last person who would ever overreact to a single unfortunate result. In this instance, however, the problem is that Stanford isn’t coming off one tough game as much as it’s coming off two sluggish performances in its last two face-offs against postseason-bound teams ­– a loss to Oregon and a victory that came down to little more than a coin toss against Washington State. What’s more, David Shaw’s side struggled in both of these games for pretty much the same reason. Once the Cardinal’s opponents were able to slow down Christian McCaffrey, the rest of the team proved incapable of moving the ball at anywhere near the clip it does when #WildCaff shows his true Heisman-candidate self (case in point: Against the Ducks, the Cardinal really only seemed efficient at getting the ball to Michael Rector, a receiver who is probably the least suited to breaking tackles in Oregon’s inconsistent secondary).

I’m not sure Cal’s defense has the chops to completely execute the “anyone but McCaffrey” strategy. However, I think that there’s a good chance that the Bears will be able to do it effectively enough to give Jared Goff and the Cal offense a chance to break open this game. Though I’ve been a little bit underwhelmed by the scoring prowess of Sonny Dykes’ squad thus far this season, it still has more than enough talent to light up a Ronnie Harris-less secondary if it plays to its potential. Stanford will need to bring its A game to maintain the advantage against this group, and even then I don’t think it does so by some historic margin. The Cardinal end up on top, but only because they succeed in scoring touchdowns (and don’t just settle for field goals) when they enter the Bears’ side of the field. It just might be time for the Big Game to become big again.

Winston Shi134x134Winston Shi: Stanford 41, California 27

We know Stanford’s offense will come out to play, but as Oregon reminded the Cardinal, there are… you know… other phases of the game, too. Despite the Oregon debacle, Pete Alamar has put together another stellar special teams unit. Once again, nobody plays field position better than Stanford, and nothing matters more in Air Raid defense than forcing the Bears to work for their points.

On defense, Stanford has obviously got a daunting challenge. Cal quarterback Jared Goff needs no introduction, and the offense he runs has done a great job of cutting down on the dumb penalties that have hamstrung the Bear Raid for so long. But I think Stanford’s very good at making Air Raid teams string together 10 or 11 plays in order to score. It can play the percentages and wait for Cal to make mistakes.

That doesn’t mean that Stanford will shut out the Bears. Cal is too good for that. But I think Stanford can get some critical red zone stops and generate key turnovers. I see the game on defense as one of these times when Cal racks up 400-450 yards but struggles its way to 27 points. With the Stanford offense backing up the Card, 27 should be enough.

Vihan_webwebVihan Lakshman: California 99, Stanford 0

To put it simply, Stanford does not deserve to be on the same field as Cal. The Bears outclass the Cardinal in every respect. After all, only a superior institution would dare to build a stadium on top of a fault line. Jared Goff and his golden arm are destined for NFL greatness and Stanford’s young secondary will only be a minor nuisance in his Air Raid destruction. Rumor has it Christian McCaffrey dreams of being as good as Daniel Lasco when he grows up. Sonny Dykes will stake his claim as Pac-12 Coach of the Year by running circles around Shaw while the much-maligned Cal defense unleashes five years of frustration in one blistering evening of yellow and gold domination.

Just kidding…Stanford 45, California 24. It seems right to pick Stanford for once.

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  • ADPATERSON79

    Stanford Offensive Line rules this game.
    Vihan inside the tent this week; tired of banishment. Do still calls it well.
    If the Cardinal secondary [without Harris, ugh] pulls it together after watching horrible film vs the Ducks and delivers some turnovers (Holder, Meeks, Reid) the game could get out of hand, because the Bears won’t be able to run much for first downs. Whitfield and Lloyd have some real catching up to do after getting burned last week.
    I look for McCaffrey and Martinez to star in this game. And, Hogan has NEVER lost to Cal.
    Watch out: Cal not very good on special teams.
    Bears eat it, Stanford 37, Cal 17. We cover the 13 points.
    Can Ukropina break the season scoring record ?