Control the ball for more than 30 minutes. That should be David Shaw’s main thought heading into the game Saturday.
When Stanford takes long offensive drives, they tend to do pretty well. Stanford’s most impressive win of the year came against Washington, and in that game, they held the ball for nearly 40 minutes. Davis Mills and company can replicate that success versus Cal.
Everyone loves praise the Cal defensive combination of linebacker Evan Weaver and head coach Justin Wilcox, but Weaver is just one guy, and Wilcox is well past his playing days. Overall, Cal ranks 38th in rush defense and 98th in pass defense.
Davis Mills will have another opportunity for a big game Saturday. However, instead of taking shots downfield, he’ll need to slowly chip away at the offense like he did versus Washington. He’ll need the help of Cameron Scarlett on the ground, too.
Against Washington, the best defense was the offense staying on the field and keeping them off. Stanford’s defense, particularly the secondary, is so depleted that they might need to call me down from the stands to play safety if another guy gets hurt. There’s no Paulson Adebo, no Malik Antoine, and likely no Treyjohn Butler. The Cardinal are left with very few options in the secondary.
However, that’s okay. They’re not facing the Washington State air raid offense. Cal ranks 111th in passing yards per game with 177.4 yards and only throw about 27 times per game. And their starting quarterback will either be coming-off-an-injury Chase Garbers or second-string Devon Modster.
Whoever starts, the Bears will likely run the ball more, and luckily for Stanford, the Cardinal do a better job at stopping the run.
Whoever starts, likely won’t have much success versus the depleted Stanford defense, though. They haven’t had much success all year.
Cal has scored over 20 points only one time in PAC-12 play. They were shutout versus Utah, only scored seven versus Oregon, and 17 points versus Arizona State, Oregon State, and USC.
This game will be a low-scoring affair, and in a low scoring affair, I trust the better quarterback and the better coach. That advantage goes to Stanford.
I predict the Cardinal win 23-17.
The Big Game kicks off at 1 PT on PAC-12 Networks.
(P.S. I’ve been wrong the last two weeks, so maybe the third time’s the charm!)