Ben Leonard: Stanford 42, Cal 24. After such a demoralizing loss against Oregon, Stanford can only do two things: fall hard and sink to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, or swim like Michael Phelps to the Pac-12 Championship game. Historically a resilient team, Stanford doesn't appear poised to sink: they've only lost consecutive games once since 2010. Cal is reeling, while Stanford seems poised for a strong rebound against a weak defense, tied for eighth in the Pac-12 in yards allowed. Jared Goff has not been the Aaron Rodgers 2.0 that many pundits proclaimed at the beginning of the season, with Cal dropping four of their last five games, beating only Oregon State, who won't win a Pac-12 game this year. You never know in a rivalry game —Cal will put up a fight, but Shaw will do a good job of refocusing his team on the task at hand: winning a Pac-12 Championship.
TonyFernandesSports: This is going to be a tougher game than what most have anticipated. Cal is coming into the game with a loose attitude since they have become bowl eligible for the first time in the Sonny Dykes era. Cal will look to air it out against the recently torched secondary of Stanford, and put a large point total on the board. It will really boil down to the pass rush, and getting in the face of Cal QB Jared Goff on a constant basis. Cal's offensive line is subpar, and it will be up the Cardinal front to make a big push. I do see Stanford pulling this game out by a close margin; I see a 42-35 score with the Axe staying at Stanford.
Sean Levy: The Axe is staying with Stanford. But it might be closer than one might think. This Cal defense is nothing to be worried about. They are #8, in the Pac-12, in yards per game, total rush yards, total pass yards, and #9 in yards per play. This Cal defense will struggle against Stanford's balanced attack. I will look to see if Hogan will be more accurate on his deep balls this game and also McCaffrey needs to set the tone on the ground to open up the passing game. The struggle for Stanford will be against Cal's passing attack. Cal is ranked as the #2 scoring offense in the Pac-12. Stanford struggled against Vernon Adams Jr. by giving up 205 yards and Adams completing 83% of his passes. Jared Goff is a much better passer than Vernon Adams Jr. so Stanford's secondary better be ready for this future NFL first rounder. As I said in the first sentence, I think Stanford will get the Axe, but it won't be easy. 45-42 Card.
David Barclay: Simply put, all eyes will be on the potent pass attack of Goff and the Bears. After losing to Oregon, the Cardinal's shaky defense is looking to rebound. It won't be easy for a hit and miss Cal defense that's dropped four of its past five against a fluid attack from Hogan and McCaffrey, but I believe Stanford to be on their heels heading into this game. Excited to be bowl eligible, I believe Cal will pull off the upset in this game, and bring the Axe to Berkeley.
Matt Vassar: Stanford 38, Cal 27. This Big Game is even bigger now that Stanford's not only playing for the axe, but also for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship. Expect fireworks to fly in this thriller of a Big Game as both passing offenses will put up some big numbers. And why wouldn't they? After all, this game pits two future NFL quarterbacks against one another, and also pits the two quarterbacks with the highest total QB ratings in the Pac-12 against one another: #1 Kevin Hogan (83.3) against #2 Jared Goff (75.8). With the potency of both quarterbacks coupled with a mediocre pass defense from Stanford and a god-awful pass defense from Cal, I'm expecting a lot of explosive plays and big receptions in this game. Ultimately, though, David Shaw has never lost a Big Game as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal, and I don't see him losing one now. By the end of this game, Stanford will not only win the axe, but also win a spot in the Pac-12 Championship.
To hear Matt preview Big Game in greater depth, click below to listen to his most recent episode of Cardinal CounTree:
Nerdnation23: Stanford 42 Cal 21. As we look back on our failed duck hunting expedition, we have loaded up on ammo for our bear hunt and Shaw went shopping personally and bought explosives instead of bear traps. Stanford will play this game like everything is on the line and when you play Cal, records are irrelevant because winning is the only thing that matters. Look for a Cal team to keep it competitive for a half and then lights out for Cal as the Tedford ghost will continue to haunt Cal.