PREVIEW - STANFORD v CALIFORNIA
So that leaves the game in T.C. Ostrander's hands. T.C. is a better quarterback than the guy who was fed to the wolves in Stanford Stadium last year, but he's still understandably gun-shy under even modest amounts of pressure. However, he's perfectly capable of having a good game if he gets adequate protection. Big Game history is filled with unlikely passing stars.
Cal's four-man pass rush has been anemic this year, so expect the Bears to blitz liberally after the first series or two. The Bears need to force rush throws and turnovers, which have been few and far between in recent weeks. On Stanford's side, we expect lots of ball-control passing, so Cal's back seven will need to continue to tackle pretty well and prevent yards after contact.
The receiver matchups don't favor Stanford unless Evan Moore can go at close to full speed. His size (6'7") would present problems for both of our corners, but he's been a non-factor due to a nagging foot injury.
When Cal has the ball...they will face a Stanford defense that has improved in recent weeks, albeit against some of the worst offenses in the conference (UW and UA). Still, the undersized Stanford D has struggled mightily to stop the power run game, and they have tackled poorly, resulting in lots of big plays and YAC for opponents. Even Arizona ran effectively against Stanford.
However, Cal is in a bonafide offensive slump, particularly in the run game, which hasn't broken 150 yards rushing since the Washington game. Opposing teams have switched to press cover techniques to jam the short passing game, and Bear receivers have failed to make them pay by getting open for deep balls. Our receivers must play a more physical game and make Stanford's corners pay for what should be another afternoon of jams at the line.
Tedford will establish the power run game and dare Stanford to stop Lynch and Forsett. If Stanford plays a more conservative pass D, Longshore should have a field day with change-of-pace short and intermediate routes. If not, it will be up to the receivers to elevate their play and create mismatches.
We don't expect that Stanford will be able to generate much of a pass rush from three rushers + Udofia. Cal's O-line is averaging fewer than one sack allowed per game, which is tops in the Pac 10.
Special Teams...The most compelling reason to watch the 109th Big Game is to watch Wopamo Osaisai try to cover DeSean Jackson on punt returns. The best versus the best. Nothing else too interesting here, other than Stanford's shaky FG game which could hurt them in a low-scoring game.
Intangibles...Normally we'd say this tilts in favor of the underdog; this is Big Game after all. But this Stanford team hasn't played with intensity all year, and there are open divisions between players and coaches. Cal, on the other hand, should be motivated to shake off two disappointing losses and end the season on a positive note.
California 40 Stanford 10