Wherein I profile some of Cal's key players in the week leading up to Big Game.
What's Brock Mansion's deal?
Between Hans Brock Mansion and Beau Sweeney, the Bears boast some impressively named backup quarterbacks. If only they had the skills and experience to match. Mansion, who threw seven passes all of last season, was thrust into the starting role when Kevin Riley went down with a season-ending knee injury against Oregon State. He was 12-for-24 with two interceptions in his first start at Washington State, a Cal win, and followed that up with a dreadful performance in the Bears' 15-13 loss to No. 1 Oregon. Mansion completed 10 of his 28 passes for 69 yards against the Ducks. "I feel like I was playing a little too fast," Mansion told reporters after the game. Jeff Tedford has a magic touch when it comes to developing quarterbacks, but if the Bears upset Stanford in the Big Game, don't expect Mansion to be the reason.
What's Shane Vereen's deal?
With Jahvid Best playing in the NFL, Vereen has thrived as Cal's feature back. Vereen doesn't look as fast or as smooth as Best, but he's quietly two yards shy of 1,000 for the season. A remarkably consistent runner, Vereen is averaging 5.2 yards per carry--the same as he averaged during last year's 952-yard campaign--and has five 100-yard games. That consistency, coupled with his durability and versatility, has led at least one observer to declare that Vereen is better than Best. Bester? Stanford fans are plenty familiar with Vereen. He rushed for 193 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries (!) in last year's Big Game. Also, his favorite show is Desperate Housewives.
What's Keenan Allen's deal?
The true freshman and former Alabama commitment burst on the scene with a big game against UC Davis, catching four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown in his debut. While he was limited to two catches for 11 yards against the Ducks, Allen has at least four catches in 5 of the 8 games he's played and has five touchdowns this season. He's taller, but not as fast or agile, as recent Cal receiving great DeSean Jackson. Still, Allen is a big play waiting to happen.
What's Giorgio Tavecchio's deal?
It's been a rough week for the Bears' junior kicker. Tavecchio has made 9 of his 14 field goal attempts this season, which is in line with his career average, but he made a couple of costly mistakes in last week's loss to Oregon. First, Tavecchio false started himself on a 24-yard field goal attempt. Then, after being forced to retry the attempt, Tavecchio pushed it wide right. (Fast forward to the 59-second mark if you haven't seen the replay.) Tavecchio also missed a pair of field goals in Cal's 10-9 loss at Arizona in September. In other words, he's no Nate Whitaker.
What's Mychal Kendricks' deal?
The junior linebacker, who has emerged as a leader for the Bears' stout defense, has 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Kendricks boldly guaranteed a victory against UCLA last season and backed it up with an interception return for a touchdown in Cal's 45-26 win. Let's see if he makes any similar proclamations this week. Earlier this year, Kendricks offered some insight into why the Bears play so much better at home than on the road. "I can tell you why it goes so well here - it's home," Kendricks told the Chronicle's John Crumpacker. "[Defensive generosity] doesn't happen at home." Click, clack.