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Big Game predictions: Stanford Cardinal at California Golden Bears

The Rule of Tree staff predicts who is taking home the Stanford Axe.

California v Stanford Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Kyle Fierro: What happens when a fully healthy Love/McCaffrey combo squares off against an objectively abysmal defense? Did you watch last week's game? They are going to run train on the bears. McCaffrey and Love will combine for 300 rushing yards, and I expect Chryst to continue to gain the trust of the coaching staff. I do think Cal is fielding a better offense than Oregon, and with no band to keep the team fired up, the defense will need to rely on the energy of leaders Meeks and Thomas to set the tone. I expect Stanford will really try to control time of possession by keeping the ball on the ground, so I expect a lower scoring affair than last week. Stanford 38, Cal 17.

Courtland Nickelberry: If you watch the Dallas Cowboys they have an elite run game with an average defense. The Cowboys are able to control the time possession and keep the defense off the field. Going into this game Stanford needs to use the strategy as their run game has progressed the last 3 weeks. I'm taking Stanford 35-17

TonyFernandesSports: Never underestimate a team during Big Game week; both teams will be playing with high emotions with Seniors from Cal (still winless vs Stanford) and Stanford (undefeated vs Cal) looking to go out from this rivalry with a bang. Cal's offense is very explosive, and can score points in a hurry; it will be up to the Stanford Secondary to bend - but not break against the Bears, and look for the Cardinal front of Phillips and Thomas to be hungry for sacks. The Cal defensive front is undersized, and has given up massive yards on the ground this season; look for Coach Shaw to utilize his two talented backs to control the clock and open up the pass game. Look for Stanford to take the victory in Strawberry Canyon 35-24.

CMolesky: Keller Chryst and the healthy Christian McCaffrey/ Bryce Love combo was lethal against the Ducks. Now they play a Cal team that ranks worse than Oregon in points allowed (43) and total yards allowed (563). While Cal will put up points with the offense guided by Davis Webb, the Cardinal have the better defense, running game and line play. Stanford takes this one 47-28.

John Loop: What was once a surging Cal Bears team seems to have hit a late season snag (is this just going to become a thing the Pac-12 is known for now?). The resurgence of Davis Webb and discovery of Chad Hansen have paced a particularly potent aerial attack in Berkeley. However, the Golden Bears have begun to show their youthfulness on both sides of the ball, having only come away with one victory in the past month. Yes, expect Cal to not only score a decent amount of points, but also to be challenged all game by Stanford's shutdown secondary (Reid and Meeks) and fiery front (Thomas and Phillips), making the Bears' chances for a bowl berth far less likely. As their offensive play continues to cultivate cohesion between offensive line, running back, quarterback and wideout alike, the Cardinal seniors make it 4-0 on Big Game weekend. Stanford 42-26 over Cal.

Matt Vassar: Cal's putrid defense will have no answers for Stanford's powerful run game. Of course, Cal has plenty of offensive weapons of its own; Davis Webb is Mel Kiper's top senior quarterback, and Chad Hansen's eye-popping 979 reception yards even made the usually cool David Shaw exclaim: "Holy mackarel!" Expect this to be a high-scoring affair, but of the two teams, only one has a defense. Stanford wins 42-31, extending its Big Game win streak to seven games, which ties its longest ever Big Game win streak.

Charlie Foy: Stanford has absolutely dominated this decade versus Cal, and that trend will only continue Saturday. The Cal offense can put up points with Davis Webb leading the way, but the Cal defense is really struggling. I expect the Stanford defense to slow down Cal while the Stanford offense has a similar performance like last week. Stanford wins this one 45-27.

WGibbons: Good Guys 42, Other Guys 25

Nerdnation23: Stanford will play like it's the only game that matters and Stanford will destroy the Cal run defense and Stanford will outcoach Cal. It's not too detailed but Stanford is just flat out better and will win 42-21.

NickDempsey: In a lot of ways this game feels an awful lot like the Stanford trouncing of Oregon we saw last week. It is difficult for me to pinpoint a clear advantage that the Cal Bears can exploit to win this game. Cal is basically just an offense but they are ranked 9th in total offense for the season. Unfortunately for the Bears that number is propped up by playing some really bad defenses earlier in the year. Lately, Bears’ offense has started to slow down. In the last 3 games for Cal, when you adjust for garbage time (points scored when the game is no longer realistically in contention) this Bears offense has slowed way down. The Bears scored 17 non garbage time points against USC (34th in total defense) 20 against Washington (19th in total D) and 7 against Washington State (50th in total defense). Stanford is ranked 31st nationally in total defense. In fact, really the only time the Bears have looked consistently good on offense is when they play against teams with bad defenses like Oregon (126th), Oregon State (89th), Arizona State (124th) and Texas (106th). Cal’s defense is also the second worst in the entire nation, even worse than Oregon.

Cal’s only real chance to win this game is the fact that it is a rivalry game where crazy things can and do happen. Unfortunately for the Bears, that is not much of a shot, though it is possible. Barring the highly improbable, Stanford wins 56 - 34.

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