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Stanford vs. Cal: Four (Not So) Preposterous Big Game Predictions

Here are four things that probably won't (but maybe will) happen Saturday at Stanford Stadium. Vote for the least preposterous prediction and feel free to leave your own in the comments section

1. Andrew Luck will throw at least 5 touchdowns.

Why it's preposterous: If this sounds familiar, it's because I (not so) preposterously predicted that Luck would throw at least 6 touchdowns against Colorado. He threw three TDs against the Buffs' porous pass defense, so throwing five against the significantly stingier Bears would be quite an accomplishment. This is preposterous because, as I mentioned before, Stanford's balanced offense prevents Luck from putting up Case Keenum-like numbers. To wit: He's never thrown more than four touchdowns in a game in his career. The Bears rank 26th in pass efficiency defense and have allowed 12 TD passes all year. Since the Colorado game, we've learned that Luck doesn't have the arm strength to make "big-time NFL throws," he's only the second-best quarterback in the Pac-12 (the conference's top QB managed only 2 TD passes against Cal), and he shouldn't even be mentioned in the Heisman discussion. On second thought, maybe I should lower this prediction to three touchdowns.

Why it could happen: Luck cares more about beating Cal than winning the Heisman. He'd be plenty happy handing the ball off 50 times and watching ST & Co. run wild, but he's also capable of a performance that will remind the world why he was the Heisman favorite entering the season and should be the frontrunner now. If Luck's injury-depleted receiving corps can't hold onto the ball this week, don't be surprised if he calls his own number, heaving a high-arcing pass down the right sideline and running under it to make the diving, one-handed catch. (I'm not the only one who reenacted football games as a kid by playing both quarterback and receiver, right? And yes, I had friends.)

2. Stanford's special teams will account for at least two touchdowns.

Why it's preposterous: Stanford has two special teams TDs -- a blocked FG return by Max Bergen and a kickoff return by Ty Montgomery. The Bears kick coverage stats are pretty good (30th in kick return defense and 59th in punt return defense). Cal has allowed one punt return for a touchdown this season.

Why it could happen: Crazy things seem to happen on special teams in Big Game. Dave Lewis's 75-yard punt in 1964? Unbelievable. That five-lateral kickoff return that was negated when the officials ruled Dwight Garner's knee was down in 1982? Wow. There's plenty of precedent for legal long kickoff returns, too! Kevin Scott's 95-yard return for a TD in the 1988 Big Game was one of the highlights of his career. It probably still ranks higher than the season Scott spent with the XFL's Las Vegas Outlaws.

3. Cal will not score a touchdown.

Why it's preposterous: The Bears rank 42nd in total offense and have found the end zone at least once in every game this season. (Cal had an extra point blocked in its 30-9 loss to USC, which could be another reason to vote for (NS)PP No. 2). As dominating as Stanford's defense was in Berkeley last season, the Bears still managed two touchdowns. After recording two shutouts last year, the Cardinal has allowed at least one touchdown in every game this season except the first one, a 57-3 over San Jose State.

Why it could happen: There's Big Game precedent. Stanford shut out the Bears 14-0 in 1971. And don't forget about 1968. Or 1955. Or -- OK, so none of those games have any bearing on tomorrow's outcome. Still, Stanford ranks 25th in scoring defense, even after giving up 53 points to Oregon and 48 points to USC two weeks earlier. Also, Zach Maynard is the Bears' QB. Which brings us to...

4. Stanford will intercept at least three passes.

Why it's preposterous: I've used this one before, too. Fun fact: Stanford's four interceptions this season are more than only six other FBS schools. The combined record of those schools is 12-46. Maynard has managed the offense fairly well the last couple of weeks, as Cal has put a greater emphasis on running the ball.

Why it could happen: I like CGB's description of Maynard in this week's Q&A as a high risk medium reward QB. The high risk was on display in losses to USC and UCLA, when Maynard threw 7 of his 11 interceptions. If Stanford can shut down the Bears' rushing attack and Cal falls behind early, he could be due for another rough outing.