California (6-4) at (8) Stanford (9-1)
Saturday, November 19th, 10:15 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Known as the "Big Game", the California-Stanford rivalry is one of the most storied in all of collegiate athletics, and the eighth-ranked Cardinal will host the Golden Bears this weekend in Pac-12 Conference action.
Cal is led by Jeff Tedford, now in his 10th season, and his squad has won two of its last three games to move to 6-4 and earn bowl eligibility. Last weekend, the Golden Bears put forth a tremendous defensive effort in a 23-6 triumph over Oregon State.
It will be interesting to see how Stanford responds this weekend after having its hopes for an undefeated season and national title dashed last week by Oregon. The 53-30 home loss to the Ducks may have cost the Cardinal both a Pac-12 title game appearance and a Rose Bowl berth, a tough pill to swallow for a team that entered the tilt at 9-0.
"It was going to take our best game and I don't think we gave them our best game, and they took advantage of it," said head coach David Shaw.
This game marks the 114th meeting between these Bay Area rivals, and Stanford owns a 56-46-11 series advantage over Cal. Last season, The Cardinal crushed the Golden Bears by a 48-14 final.
Cal is a rather mediocre offensive team by Pac-12 standards, as it is generating 28.3 ppg and 417.5 total ypg. The Golden Bears are led by Zach Maynard, who has started every game at quarterback and has completed 54.6 percent of his passes for 2,285 yards, 14 TDs and with 11 INTs. As a runner, he has reached the end zone three times. The ground attack is paces by Isi Sofele, who has 1,029 yards and eight scores to his credit. As for the receivers, Keenan Allen leads the pack with 78 receptions for 1,103 yards and five TDs.
Against Oregon State last week, Cal rolled up 424 total yards, including 296 yards on 46 rushing attempts. The Golden Bears got a career-high 190 yards and a score from Sofele, who was downright dominant running the ball. Maynard completed 13-of-19 passes for 128 yards with a score, and Cal won comfortably despite the fact that Allen was a non-factor.
"Isi has improved every week," said Tedford of his tailback after the win. "Not only is he elusive, he is bringing more power as the season wears on. He is running very physical for a little guy. He is making yards after the hit."
Opponents are scoring only 22.4 ppg against Cal, which is yielding 319.1 total ypg. The Golden Bears are tough against the run, permitting a mere 3.5 yards per carry, and the pass defense has certainly been respectable, especially considering the high total of 29 sacks posted to date. Mychal Kendricks paces Cal with 75 total tackles, and he has a pair of interceptions to his credit.
The defense deserves a ton of credit for the win over Oregon State last week, as the Golden Bears didn't surrender a single touchdown in the affair. The defense spent just 23:36 on the field, thanks in part because it held OSU to 3-of-11 success on third down conversion attempts.
Stanford QB Andrew Luck is considered by may analysts to be the best QB prospect in decades, and he is under the microscope every time he steps on the field for Stanford. Luck made some big plays against Oregon last week, passing for 271 yards and three touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice and simply needed to play better. Griff Whalen posted nine catches for 107 yards and two scores in the setback, one in which Stanford turned the ball over three times.
It is easy to assume that the Stanford defense played poorly against Oregon least week, but a closer look suggests that the Cardinal put up a strong fight. The Ducks are one of the most explosive teams in the nation, yet they were held to 387 total yards. Sure, Oregon had six offensive touchdowns, but many of those were set up by Stanford turnovers, so it is hard to heap too much blame on the defense.
Overall this season, Luck has completed 70.6 percent of his passes for 2,680 yards and 29 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. He has also run for a pair of scores and is a tremendous leader. Whalen has caught 45 passes for 641 yards and four TDs, while Coby Fleener paces Stanford with eight receiving scores. Stepfan Taylor paces the Cardinal with 990 rushing yards and eight TDs and is all but certain to crack the 1,000-yard barrier this Saturday.
While Stanford is racking up 46.4 ppg and 493.7 total ypg, the team is surrendering 20.2 ppg and 330.3 total ypg. The Cardinal has been far more successful stopping the run than the pass, as foes are gaining a mere 94.2 rushing ypg at a clip of 3.3 yards per attempt. A player to watch for Stanford is Chase Thomas, as he has posted 14.5 TFL to date, including 6.5 sacks.
Expect Stanford to bounce back strong from last weekend's disappointing defeat. Luck will be nearly perfect in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stanford 37, California 20
11/16 10:41:22 ET