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The Hunt for Red in October: Cal vs. Stanford, Big Game Roundtable

Will Keenan Allen get to celebrate touchdowns and touch the Axe this October?
Will Keenan Allen get to celebrate touchdowns and touch the Axe this October?

The Big Game. In Berkeley. In...October?!?

Yes, boys and girls, this year the Big Game is not in the normal Saturday-before-Thanksgiving spot. Heck, it's not even on a kind-of-weird-but-at-least-it's-the-last-game-of-the-season December Saturday like it was in 2004, 2006, and 2007. Nope, this year the Big Game really goes rogue. October 20. In case you forgot the reason why:

The Big Game is in October, which is obviously much earlier than it is traditionally played. This change will understandably upset Old Blues and other purists, but was a byproduct of the conference's expansion to 12 members. Because the Pac-12 Championship must be played in the last week of November or the first week of December, scheduling scenarios were severely limited.

Conference athletic directors voted on two different schedules; the losing plan, which Stanford and Cal lobbied for, had the Big Game scheduled on Nov. 17.

"I am very disappointed that these challenges have resulted in the moving of our rivalry game with Stanford - one of the longest standing traditions in all of college football - away from its proper place and time in the rhythm of the football season," said athletic director Sandy Barbour in a statement. "I believe that college football is unique, in large part, because of traditions like the Big Game, and we believe that those traditions should be carefully protected."

Regardless of when it is, the Big Game is still big for Cal. The Bears have lost the last two Big Games to the hated Lobsterbacks, meaning that the Axe has been away from Berkeley for longer than it has ever been since Jeff Tedford became Cal's head coach in 2002. Will Cal break the losing streak and bring the Axe back home? Your CGB writers and mods pulled the round table out of the garage, sat around it, and discussed.

TwistNHook: Who can't wait for those classic October Big Game traditions??????? Look, part of me doesn't care about the ruination of most of the things great about Big Game, IF WE JUST WIN!

Can we win in the post-Luck era???

LeonPowe: Can I be the first to say: Yes.

(Now that's a good start. See what the rest of your CGB writers and mods think after the jump.)

Avinash: Is this the most important game of the season for Tedford? He wins this, there will be a great amount of goodwill for getting the Axe back as long as we don't tank it elsewhere. He loses this, that's three Big Games lost in a row, and two at home, and this one without Luck. That would not be a good look.

Also, how much will your feelings on Tedford's future as Cal's head coach hinge on the results of this game?

Ohio Bear: My knee jerk reaction is to say yes: it is the most important game of the season for Tedford. But it's the most important game of the season for anybody who wears the script Cal on Saturdays. THIS IS THE BIG GAME. Not only that, with it being in October, in the sweet spot of the season, it might be an important game for the Pac-12 North race to boot. As for how it affects the perception of Tedford, I think that viewing this as somewhat of a referendum on his tenure is inevitable. I never thought I would see it happen, but Cal fans got used to beating Stanford. And now that the shoe is on the other foot, it doesn't feel so good. I don't think I'd go so far as to say his future at Cal hinges upon this game (because I don't think AD Sandy Barbour would put that type of importance on just this game), but I think the fanbase will be filled with some gloom and doom if we don't win this one.

Let's relive our last Big Game win, shall we?

atomsareenough: Losing this game would suck bigtime, as it always would, but if we have an 8-9 win season and beat 2 of Oregon/USC/Washington... then I don't think losing the Axe alone would make me reconsider Tedford's future. Though, of course, losing to Stanford is proboably not very well correlated with winning 2 of the three games I mentioned....

Also, how we play is important as well. If it's a blowout, then that would be maddening. If it's a tough, close game and we just come out on the wrong end of it, then I could live with that.

Anyway, back to the actual topic at hand, I don't think we will lose. I think Stanford is going to find that life without Luck is a lot harder than they think it will be. They lost a lot of pieces on their O-line as well. They've recruited well though, so maybe the dropoff isn't so severe. But, I'm thinking they're probably a 7-8 win team if things go well for them. They won't be pushovers, but I think we can take them.

Berkelium97: Stanford is in for a rude awakening this season. Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh aren't walking through that door--this is going to be a serious test for David Shaw.

Stanford lost enough components on offense that things could be rough this year. Andrew Luck is finally gone, David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin leave a couple voids on the O-line, TE Coby Fleener graduated, and WRs Chris Owusu and Griff Whalen have departed. The Cardinal have plenty of holes to fill on offense.

Their running game should continue to excel with the return of Stepfan Taylor (1330yds, 10TDs) and all that talent on the O-line. Fortunately for us, things will be a work in progress in the passing game. Assuming Brett Nottingham wins the starting job, the Lobsterbacks will put their offense in the hands of a guy with 8 career passes. I like the sound of that. Better yet, he's going to have to find some new receivers to throw to, although he'll have several seasoned tight ends to help him out.

I can see Stanford's season going much like Cal's in 2008: tons of talent at LB to anchor the defense coupled with a solid but one-dimensional offense led by a dynamic running game. Shut down the run and the offense will fizzle.

Can the Bears slow down the running game and show enough looks on defense to confuse the green QB? You better believe it.

unclesam22: Cal should win this game going away. I think that Stanford was beatable last year, so given their losses on both sides of the ball and our hopeful improvement, I think that the Axe should be coming home to Berkeley. I also think that this is an important game for Tedford, but that the overall scope of the season and the program trajectory is much more important in terms of his job security. Yeah, it would be great to win 8-9 games and get the Axe back, but he beats the Furd and only wins 4 other games, it will not be enough.

norcalnick: I think there are a ton of parallels between Stanford in 2011-12 and Cal in 2004-05, which is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time. As we all remember well, Cal was just stacked with talent in 04-05, but the Bears didn't have an all-world QB in 05 and 'struggled' in an 8-4 regular season.

Stanford is similarly talented - they've been recruiting like gangbusters over the last few years. If their new QB is pre-injury-Nate-Longshore-esque, they could win 10 games again. If their new QB is Joe-Ayoob-esque, then Cal should beat them.

Where the parallel might break down is on the offensive line. The 2005 Bears lost Rodgers, but they still had all-everything Marvin Phillips and Ryan O'Callaghan to maul opposing defensive lines. As Berkelium noted, Stanford is losing their best offensive linemen. Replacing their production might be just as important (and difficult) as replacing Luck.

Regarding Avi's questions - this is easily the most important game of the year. In my mind it would be between Stanford and UW, as those two teams are our direct competitors in the North standings. The rivalry aspect is the tie-breaker. And with this game in October it feels like the fulcrum that the rest of the season will swing on. I don't think the team will check out mentally if they lose this game, but I think the fans might.

Vincent S: We can. Will we? I hope so. While Stanford may have lost Mr. Luck, Mr. Martin, and Mr. DeCastro, their fleet of tight ends still worries me. A green quarterback will feel a lot better knowing he has a couple of game-breaking tight ends to bail him out.

On our end, I'm highly worried about the state of our Offensive Line. Things better have coalesced by then for us to win; if we lose anybody integral (especially at Tackle!), Maynard's going to have a long day. Sofele and Anderson will have trouble finding those holes.

While Allen is an all-world talent, I think we'll also need at least one more wide-out to shine and draw the defense's eyes to open up the box for our running game. I think we'll need our running backs to outperform Stanford's linebacking core. I think we'll need a strong home crowd to lift our team up in times of hardship. I'm afraid there will be massive struggles, but I also feel we'll win.

These are highlights of the greatest 16 minutes of Cal football I have ever watched in my life. I want this playing on a loop when I am on my deathbed.

TwistNHook: How quickly can we do this:

The Stanford football team will have a new playbook for the 2012 season - a digital playbook.

Every player and coach has been given a specially-programmed iPad instead of the traditional, paper-filled spiral notebooks that are used to store the offensive and defensive plays.
The Cardinal purchased more than 100 iPads outfitted by PlayerLync, a Denver-based sports technology company that has several NFL clients.

Stanford is the first college team to make use of the digital playbook, according to the school.

The iPad playbooks are not only environmentally friendly - teams use tens of thousands of pieces of paper each season - but also cost-effective: The price of the iPads will, over time, be less than the cost of the paper, coach David Shaw said.

HydroTech: As soon as you donate $50,000 to Cal Football so they can buy those iPads.

Berkelium97: Is it really a better interface for a playbook? Reading novels is great with electronic media. But a playbook is a lot more like a textbook--I would greatly prefer a traditional paper book format for something like that.

TwistNHook: They can probably coordinate video on there. Check this out:

Aside from saving trees, the ability to search content quickly and easily as well as the integration of multimedia content offer very clear advantages to Apple's tablet and the Broncos are working to have game video incorporated into player iPads as soon as possible. Then there's the capability for cloud-based syncing of highlights and notes by coaching staff and players - information that goes to the shredder each week in a traditional paper playbook. In fact, this feature in particular is touted by PlayerLync, the company providing the e-playbook software for the Broncos. PlayerLync also offers a range of modules in its software beyond playbooks including modules for equipment management, business functions, and travel arrangements.

HydroTech: I suppose that walking around with a small iPad is a lot easier than lugging around a huge, thick playbook. But what can an iPad playbook do that a paper playbook can't? Maybe an iPad playbook can better quiz the players on their responsibilities against certain defenses/offenses. I don't know much else it might be better at.

To me, the biggest advantage would be watching film. You could watch film where ever you are. You could easily search for certain types of plays or situations to watch for (assuming all that film has been cut up by the film guys and categorized properly). I know if I had an iPad where I could watch and search for film, I'd be watching it all the time, and you guys would probably be getting analysis posts from me on a weekly basis.

LeonPowe: I think it is preferable - you can animate plays, link film with plays, remotely update plays and if you lose one it can be remotely wiped and locked.

I work for a large corporation and we have a large field staff - over 70 people report to my boss. She just bought iPads for everyone in my group - and it is so much better than our hard printed "playbooks" which we used to use. Remote updating, links to photos for us - I can see how the right iPad app would make it even better for football players. Also film study can be on the same device - as well as scouting.

atomsareenough: I wonder Cal CS students would potentially hack the Stanford iPads before the Big Game...


Berkelium97: I've seen a couple images Cal players have posted where they can watch film remotely on their phones due to some new infrastructure with the SAHPC--that seems like a huge advantage. If this could be incorporated into a digital playbook, that would be great. It sounds like we're still a few years away from seeing this at Cal (and several large donations away).

Vincent S: Incidentally, the comments on articles seem to say that Stanford is by no means the "first" to do this; other schools like Utah already have been doing this for a while. Stanford's just the first to make a special announcement about it.

TwistNHook: So, basically, Stanford wants credit for doing what everybody else is doing already. That's so Stanford!

unclesam22: Typical. I'm a little surprised they didn't call it "The Andrew Luck iPad Playbook for Learning Plays Real Good."

Kodiak: Regarding the iPad playbook, I think that it would be a significant improvement. Many people are visual learners. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for today's youth, video is king.

I think that it would be significantly easier to recognize and learn a play by seeing actual players or graphics that can move rather than just X's and O's.

In some ways, this is a modern version of the checkers games that Coach Tedford used to play with his quarterbacks.

I'm envious. But to heck with 'furd anyway.

With regards to the Big Game, we should beat them decisively. Their defense plays tough and disciplined. But, their overall team speed is still somewhat suspect. On offense, I think that Luck really disguised their lack of skill players, particularly at wide receiver.

Even if Nunes or Nottingham eventually turn into solid Pac-12 quarterbacks, it's highly doubtful that they're going to be ready to do so during their first year. There's no Toby Gerhardt to carry the offense and make things easy for a young QB. I suspect that their Oline/TEs and Luck make Stepfan Taylor look a lot better than he really is. They've recruited well, but relying on true frosh at two OLine positions doesn't generally work out very well.

It's still the Big Game, so craziness abounds. But barring turnovers and head-scratching errors, we're the better team this year and should reclaim the Axe.

A failure to do so would be disheartening and might bode ill tidings for the future of Tedford at Cal.

Just for the heck of it. I like watching it.

TwistNHook: Score predictions?

Vincent S: Cal 38 - Stanford 24

Berkelium97: This one will probably be a defensive slugfest like last year's Holiday Bowl (hopefully without the 5 turnovers). Cal has a more well rounded and experienced offense which should give us an advantage over the Lobsterbacks' green passing game.

Cal 24, Trees 17

atomsareenough: Bears 28, Cardinal 17

Kodiak: Cal 41, Furd 13

HydroTech: I think Furd is a bit overrated this year and are just riding some of the coattails of last year's team. I see Cal winning this game. Cal 31, Furd 17.

unclesam22: Cal 31, furd 17

Ohio Bear: Cal 25, Stanf*rd 20.
The Bears have won. There will be no extra point.