Last weekend, the Cal Bears became bowl-eligible. This weekend, they have the daunting task of try to bring The Axe back to Berkeley.
They face an Tightwad Hill-steep mountain to climb. Vegas gives the Bears (6-4, 3-4) little to no chance of beating the Stanford Cardinal (9-1, 7-1) in the 114th Big Game on Saturday night. Stanford opened the weekend as 20-point favorites.
But the Cardinal are coming off a humiliating loss at home to Oregon last week, and there’s no better time to kick a giant than when they’re already down.
Cal’s best shot at winning is to hand the ball off to running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, who have combined for 475 yards during the last two games against Washington State and Oregon State. As a team, the Bears averaged 294 in those games, winning both easily.
Oregon used the ground game to beat Stanford, running for 232 yards. Cal needs the same kind of performance if they hope to win.
The Bears need quarterback Zach Maynard to play with some composure. At several times this season, the junior has looked overwhelmed, but coach Jeff Tedford is sticking by his athletic lefty.
Cal’s defense needs to take advantage of the injuries that are plaguing the Stanford offense. Two of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets, receiver Chris Owusu and tight end Zach Ertz, are most likely out for the game.
The Bears run defense has stepped up the last two weeks, giving up only 69 rushing yards to Washington State and holding Oregon State to just 27 yards on the ground. If Cal can contain Stepfan Taylor, they force Andrew Luck to beat them with limited weapons.
Can Cal win this year’s Big Game? Sure. Will they? Doubt it. But Anything can happen in a rivalry game. One thing is for sure: they’ll are going to need everything to go right for them.