Golden Nuggets: As Stanford Licks Its Wounds, Cal Rides Momentum into the Big Game

Ezra Shaw - Getty Images

Jon Wilner looks at the Big Game from both Cal and Stanford's perspectives. While the outcome is far from certain, Cal fans have reason to be optimistic heading into the game.

Now that Andrew Luck has graduated with his unaccredited degree in architecture, Cal has to like its chances in this year's Big Game. Two weeks ago Cal fans had little optimism about anything, let alone the Big Game. After two solid wins and consecutive struggles from Stanford, Cal fans are starting to look forward to the Big Game.

Funny how the season changes shape. Three weeks ago it was hard to imagine the Bears staying on the field with Stanford.

Now? You have to like their chances (and the oddsmakers do: Cal opened as a 1.5-point underdog).

Cal should be in the game in the fourth quarter with a shot to win – just as it was last year, at Stanford, against Andrew Luck.

* Aside from the obvious (limit turnovers), the keys for Cal are being physical up front and giving its playmakers opportunities to influence the outcome.

That means getting them the ball in advantageous positions, whether it’s Allen with a step on a cornerback or Bigelow in space on the perimeter or Sofele with a lane on the stretch play.

* I picked Cal to beat Stanford in my preseason projections and, despite what has transpired the past six weeks, believe the Bears have the ingredients to make it happen.

As for the Lobsterbacks, they have every reason to be worried about this game. They have yet to score an offensive touchdown on the road and they face a stout Cal defense at Memorial Stadium.

Troublesome, with the operative word being "at." (The Cardinal opened as a 1.5-point favorite. Were the game at Stanford Stadium, the line would probably be 6 or 7.)

The Bears have the speed and the playmakers to give Stanford problems, especially on the turf — if Cal can find a way to get Keenan Allen, Isi Sofele, Richard Rodgers and Brendan Bigelow the ball in positions to make plays.

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