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Stanford at Cal: Big Game Preview

Looking at Cal before kickoff

Stanford v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Headed into the weekend, Stanford is facing the same kind of team they just beat in Oregon. A defense that gives up a lot of yards and points and an offense that is only electric when it gets rolling. However, there are some better match ups for the Cardinal in this game.

Cal is 8th in total offense in the country, scoring 37.8 points a game with a 518 total yards average. But after a closer look a pass heavy offense is revealed as the Bears average 361.2 passing yards a game compared to 156.7 rushing yards that is good for 86th out of 128 teams. On the year they have recorded 3,612 passing yards to just 1,567 rushing. To put that in perspective, Donnel Pumphrey and D’Onta Foreman both have more rushing yards on the season than this team has collected.

This will be on the arm of Cal quarterback Davis Webb, which is squarely where they have placed every other game this season. While he has 3,601 yards through the air and 33 touchdowns on the year, the in-Davis-we-trust strategy plays right into Stanford’s strength defensively. In the three losses that Stanford has suffered, two were at the hands of dominate rushing. The Huskies’ Myles Gaskin had 100 yards with two touchdowns and Colorado’s Philip Lindsey had 131 yards. The format that Cal must follow is Washington State’s, who won without a running back going over 50 yards. This is a tall task, however, because Cal must face a healthy secondary. When the game is on the secondary for the Cardinal, the defensive front can zero in on rushing the passer.

Three things need to happen if Cal is to squeak out a win. First: They need to force turnovers, a lot of them. If they can get Stanford giving away opportunities to a top 10 offense, they will have a shot. Second: They need to bottle up McCaffrey. In every victory this season for the Cardinal, they have had a running back go for at least 120 rushing yards. Cal will need to keep a lid on the rushing game. Third: Cal will need to have at least three plays of over 25 yards through the air to try and break the secondary.

All that said, I really do not see Stanford losing. Keller Chryst looked really good last week, even if it was the Ducks terrible defense making him look good, Cal’s defense is even worse. Cal lets up over 40 points and over 500 total yards a game. The game plan should be the same as it was against the Ducks. Press the ball over the top and bludgeon them with a healthy McCaffrey in the run game. Stanford’s offense has climbed from rank 128th in the country to 113th over the last three weeks. It continues to climb this weekend. On defense Quenton Meeks will lock up a receiver and force Webb to his second or third option, giving Solomon Thomas and Harrison Phillips more opportunity to get sacks. Both Thomas and Phillips have been playing considerably better over past weeks and this defense is going to clamp down on an unbalanced offense. Stanford runs away with this one after two or three close quarters.

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