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Cal vs. Stanford Know the Enemy: Previewing the Junior Farm College Offense

I have a vehement dislike for the the Furd. I wish I could be more vulgar in that dislike

Oski wants the axe.
Oski wants the axe.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I don't like Stanfurd. That seems obvious, here on a site with Cal fans who have an unabashed love of their school, but it rings more true this week. It's Big Game week, and the 118th edition of the Cal-Stanfurd Player Haters' Ball takes place on Saturday evening in that incorporated outhouse that calls itself Palo Alto. There plenty of reasons to hate the Farm College, so let's go through as many Furd Jokes as they'll let me write.

  • Kevin Hogan saw the Last Airbender 3 times in theaters
  • Stanfurd fans unironically own an average of 2.5 Creed albums
  • Stanfurd fans still think Tiger Woods is a stand up guy
  • Tiger Woods was an honorary captain the last time Cal won the Big Game, and he got booed out of the building. That precipitated his decline into being bad at golf and monogamy
  • Nearly every time I've been down there, Cal fans have managed to travel better than Stanfurd fans. 2005 especially, where Cal fans took over about 60% of the stadium for Steve Levy's finest performance
  • Herbert Hoover went to Stanfurd. His administration caused the Great Depression, and exacerbated it through poor policy. Sounds like a Furd to me.
  • Their student section is called the Nerd Nation, which is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. It reeks of trying too hard to be on the cutting edge, so I guess it does fit there.
  • John Elway is still bitter about the Play. And he's part horse.
  • They change the score back to 20-19 on the Axe every time they have it.
  • David Shaw might actually be a robot
  • Christian McCaffrey tips 10% at restaurants
  • The tree is possibly the worst creative idea in the history of mankind. The band is definitely the worst.
  • Stanfurd fans are the kind of people to knock over a grocery store display, look around to make sure no one saw, and then quietly slink away
  • GRADE INFLATION.
  • There's probably a whole host of other reasons to hate Stanfurd, so post yours in the comments below

Anyway, on to the football part of this weekend. The Cardinal offense is a throwback; while other teams move to multiple wideouts, the Furd will line up in jumbo sets with 8 linemen. No wonder a bunch of middle-aged white dudes love watching them play. They can run with no problems, and they have the ability to throw when needed. Kevin Hogan has the ability to not pass the eye test for most, but still pull out great plays in the most infuriating of ways.

Personnel:

First we start with the orchestrator, Hollywood Kevin Hogan. Hogan, as said before is infuriatingly decent to every Pac-12 team. Especially UCLA. Kevin Hogan hates UCLA like Stanfurd fans hate the movie Hairspray for reminding them of social change. He's the only QB in Pac-12 history to go 5-0 against another team, that team being UCLA. Hogan throws with all the touch of a javelin thrower, and runs with the grace of an amphetamine laden harp seal. Somehow it works for him, as he's completing over two thirds of  passes. Here are his pertinent stats:

  • 67.6% completion, 8.97 yards per attempt
  • 2135 passing yards, 162.1 QB rating
  • 18 touchdowns, 7 interceptions
  • A 100 yard rushing game against Washington State

Needless to say, he's not a bad quarterback statistically. That being said, he's thrown an interception in each of his last five games, and has the hateability of about four Christian Laettners, which is equal to 1.5 Casey Jacobsens.

Christian McCaffrey is the next Furd player up and his name is ironic for Cal fans, as he may be Christian, but he plays more like Satan, and he wears red. He's a quick runner, who can hit the hole and be gone without a second thought. He's also good at shedding tackles, which makes him Toby Gerhart without the PEDs. He's great in the return game, and was lauded for much of the year for his multipurpose game. That being said, he's at about a six or seven Christian Laettner hateability rating. Here are his pertinent stats:

  • 1354 yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 7 touchdowns
  • 33 receptions for 367 yards, 2 touchdowns

Surprisingly enough McCaffrey doesn't have the most rushing touchdowns for the Cardinal. That honor goes to Remound Wright, who is mostly a short yardage back. He has 10 TDs on the year. They also have Barry Sanders Jr, who is automatically a disappointment compared to his dad unless he turns into a fireball midgame and scores 12 TDs. This rushing attack is very formidable, with a talented offensive line. The 2012 recruiting class produced four of their starting linemen(6 signees in total), and all were rated at 3 stars or above (two three stars, two fours stars, and two five stars). This is the year that they have come together, Kyle Murphy especially, and it has produced big numbers for the Cardinal.

There's also the receiving corps for the Cardinal, which isn't anywhere near as prolific as the rushing attack. It also helps that the Furd tends to use extra linemen compared to extra receivers. Michael Rector is the big play threat. Austin Hooper is the latest in a line of Cardinal tight ends that will catch everything and run routes esentially uncovered. Francis Owusu is the younger brother of Chris Owusu, and he made the craziest catch I've ever seen. Devin Cajuste is there, and it feels like he's been there for 20 years. Then there's Bryce Love, a true freshman running back who has been used more in the passing game. He'll be solid in either role.

Scheme:

The Furd will run. And run some more. They have gotten better at throwing the ball, as Kevin Hogan has become infuriatingly decent, but I have a feeling that there will be a lot of Stanford runs come Saturday. Seeing the issues that Cal has in open field tackling and the success that the Oregon schools found on the ground against the Bears, the Furd has to be excited. Anyway, the offensive line is good, and when they open up holes on this play like they did against UCLA, they're scary.

In the above play, there are eight men on the offensive line. That's right, eight. The issue that UCLA has on this play is that they have six men on the weak side of the formation. The right guard is going to pull, which puts 6 blockers on 5 defenders on the play side. Also, the line gets a picture perfect push, the kind that o-line coaches fantasize about. No one comes close to touching McCaffrey for the first ten yards, and by then he's gone. Good execution that takes advantage of what the defense gives you.

Next is another play in that realm. Kevin Hogan sees single coverage on the outside in the red zone. He checks to an easy play, a slant from Cajuste that he can take one step on, and fire it in. He does just that, and it's a TD.

The thing about stopping a play like this is that it requires either the corner to press on the outside, or have linemen with good enough reflexes to put their hands up after the short drop. It's a difficult play to stop  unless you know that it's coming.

When the defense can stop the rushing attack, it's through effort and cutting under blocks. Look at this toss the Cardinal ran against Oregon. They have an unbalanced line, with four men to the right of the center.

During this play, both guards pulled, but Oregon did what UCLA didn't. They attacked the line, pushing in the pulling guard. That resulted in a much smaller hole for McCaffrey, which was much easier to close for the defense. This is the majority of the Stanford run game. Since they have bigger, more talented linemen than the vast majority of teams, an 8 man offensive line is easy for them to run and overpower opponents that don't have the power to fight them.

They will run plays out of non-heavy formations to put their speed guys in space. Some of these will be used with Bryce Love at tailback, but a lot of them will feature McCaffrey.

In this play, Stanfurd decides to run a quick tailback swing play, which they do have the numbers advantage for. Why they don't run this as a screen with extra linemen going out to throw a block confuses me. Anyway, one of the Oregon corners gets off his block quickly and takes down McCaffrey with his fellow defensive backs. The play design here isn't great, but it will work against defenses that have trouble getting off of blocks.

All in all, those Furdies are a talented team. They recruit well and play to their strengths. That being said, I have an extreme distaste for pretty much everything about the school for all the reasons said above. It'll be a tough team to overcome, but I think it's possible. Not probable, but stranger things have happened.