Stanford vs. California Preview
In their 121st meeting, the California Golden Bears (7-4,4-4) play host to the Stanford Cardinal (7-4,5-3) at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California.
Stanford currently leads the series 64-45-11 and is riding an eight-game winning streak over the Golden Bears that dates to the days of Jim Harbaugh coaching the Cardinal. David Shaw’s team comes into this rivalry game with what is likely his weakest team since 2014.
Stanford has been plagued by injury all season long, starting with running back Bryce Love. Entering the season, Love was a Heisman hopeful, coming off 2,118 yards during his junior campaign. This year has been a complete 180 for the Cardinal running back, as he has run for a measly 665 yards, averaging 4.6 yards a carry, by far the lowest of his career. Until this year, his lowest yards a carry average was 7.0.
Quarterback K.J. Costello has passed for 28 touchdowns with 14 of them coming to star wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Nonetheless, without a consistent rushing attack, Costello has been unable to shoulder the load, and nor should he be expected to. The defense has been unspectacular, prevailing against the likes of Oregon State, yet conceding 42 points to the Wilton Speight and the UCLA Bruins.
Luckily for David Shaw’s crew, Cal’s offense will pose not nearly the threat of Oregon, UCLA, Washington, and even Utah. However, if the Cardinal are going to come out victorious, they will need to establish a legitimate rushing attack against what may be the best defense in the Pac-12.
Ever since a 30-point shellacking to UCLA on homecoming, the Golden Bears have played their best football since the Jeff Tedford era. Cal has won three of its last four with its only loss being a six-point loss to Washington State on the road.
Head coach Justin Wilcox solved his quarterback dilemma by sitting South Carolina transfer Brandon McIlwain in favor of Chase Garbers. While Garbers has not eclipsed 200 yards passing since the Oregon State game in October, he has done a superior job in comparison to McIlwain of protecting the ball, which is all that this defense needed.
Even though the Golden Bears could not prevail in Pullman, Washington, they held the Cougars to 19 points, their second-lowest scoring output of the season. Cal also prevailed at the Coliseum against the USC Trojans, breaking a 13-game win streak that dated back to 2004. That the Golden Bears were able to hold a Southern California offense led by freshmen sensation J.T. Daniels to 14 points was an unprecedented display of defensive prowess.
Garbers did not even pass for 100 yards in the contest but led by a stellar defense that includes linebacker Evan Weaver and defensive end Luc Bequette, Cal is playing at a defensive level that former defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox can be proud of.
Offensively, Stanford is a far superior team on the offensive side of the ball, yet contrary what to what is typically the norm, Cal has the better defensive. Given the momentum and the prospects of beating Stanford for the first time in nine years, Cal’s defense and its home crowd should give the Golden Bears a fighting chance.
However, David Shaw’s team is too talented, and with the additional weeks of preparation with the Northern California wildfires postponing the game until December, the Cardinal should be healthier. The Golden Bears will put up a battle, but in the end, the superior team should prevail in a tight one in Strawberry Canyon.
Final Score Prediction: Stanford 20, Cal 13
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.