Week 13 Pac-12: Stanford at Cal

    Stanford (5-5) at California (5-5) Nov. 22, 4:00, Fox Sports 1 Here’s The Deal: Here’s a wrinkle. The 117th Big Game matters equally to Stanford and

    November 21, 2014

    Stanford (5-5) at California (5-5) Nov. 22, 4:00, Fox Sports 1 

    Here’s The Deal: Here’s a wrinkle. The 117th Big Game matters equally to Stanford and Cal. 

    Unlike the past few years, when the Bears were little more than a Cardinal speed bump to the Pac-12 title game, Cal can simultaneously become bowl-eligible while dashing Stanford’s postseason hopes. 

    The Bears have been one of the league’s biggest surprises in 2014, rapidly ascending from 1-11 last year to the postseason periphery. And snapping the Cardinal’s four-game winning streak in the series would jolt Sonny Dykes’ rebuilding plans into warp speed. Stanford currently sits on the opposite spectrum, proving that all .500 records are not alike. The two-time defending Pac-12 champs have been a major disappointment, losing all four games with ranked opponents. 

    Why Stanford Might Win: A quality defense, such as Stanford’s, will cause problems for the Bears. Against Washington, Cal scored seven points. And versus USC, it was dormant for the first three quarters. The Cardinal has yielded an average of 13 points to teams not named Oregon, and the secondary allows the fewest yards per attempt, touchdown passes and yards per game in the Pac-12. The Bears won’t run the ball on Stanford, and QB Jared Goff will have to make snap decisions if Cardinal DE Henry Anderson collapses the pocket the way he did two weeks ago. 

    Why Cal Might Win: The Bears feature the more explosive attack, with Goff orchestrating the nation’s fourth-ranked passing game. It’ll be a clash of wills and philosophies in Berkeley Saturday afternoon. If Cal is able to speed up the game, Stanford will struggle to keep pace. The Cardinal has been inefficient all year with the ball, failing to run or block up to its usual standard. And while Stanford is stout on D, the Bears can spread the field with talented playmakers, such as RB Daniel Lasco and a quartet of quality pass-catchers. 

    Who To Watch Out For: If Cal successfully lures Stanford into a track meet, can Stanford QB Kevin Hogan match Goff through the air? Hogan was brilliant in 2013 versus a flimsy Bear defensive backfield that’s been getting ambushed again this fall. Plus, Hogan has gifted weapons of his own, with precocious RB Christian McCaffrey recently adding a boost to a backfield that’s needed it. 

    What’s Going To Happen: You’re getting close, Cal, but you’re not quite there. Yeah, the gap between these rivals has narrowed considerably since last November. But this is Stanford’s last chance to salvage something from 2014, and it’s not as if the Bears have broken through against a bona fide quality opponent this year. The Cardinal D will slow down Goff just enough, while Hogan takes advantage of the leaky Cal defense at critical moments of the second half. 

    Prediction: Stanford 34 … Cal 27 
    Line: Stanford -5.5 o/u: 56 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: HBO’s State of Play – 1: Euros of Hollywood … 3 

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