Going into the 2015 Big Game, Stanfurd is alone at the top of the Pac-12 North, ranked #11, and has a chance to be in the Playoff if they win out.
Cal, on the other hand, has just bagged its 6th win to become bowl-eligible for the first time in years, and HC Sonny Dykes has finally pulled the program from the depths of despair to a #20 ranking — for a week, at least.
Stanfurd’s biggest offensive weapon is its offensive line. Look for them to dominate the line, get about 6 yards per rushing attempt in the first half, dominate time of possession, and throw some passes over the top as soon as Cal brings their safeties in to stop the run.
Cal will attempt to establish a running game, but will need success in passing to set it up. Look for them to take advantage of their speed in one-on-one matchups. Hopefully they’ve added a few plays where Khalfani Muhammed or Trey Watson run wide. If they have, they should see success.
I’m hoping that the Bears have some surprises in store that help them get open against Stanfurd’s defense. We’ll see.
Cal will need help to beat Stanfurd. The Cardinal is stronger on both sides of the ball, and is likely to dominate the line of scrimmage. However, of all the places where help might come, there is one place where there will be no help: the officiating.
Stanfurd is the Pac-12 Conference’s lone hope for making the post-season playoff. If Cal wins Big Game, the Pac-12 will be shut out from the playoff. So the Pac-12, as a conference, has a huge interest in a Stanfurd victory.
Last year’s Big Game was an officiating nightmare. Cal’s starting safety ejected on the first play of the game for targeting. Later, on one series, three consecutive TDs, called by the officials on the field, were overturned by the replay official.
Throughout the game, expect Cal’s receivers to be pushed, shoved, grabbed, and even tackled before the arrival of Jared Goff’s passes, with no penalties called. Sorry, Bears!
Prediction: Cal makes this one fairly close, and moves the ball well on offense. Stanfurd 44, Cal 38.