1. Other than blasting a train horn every hour and the Gaieties, can you tell us more about Stanford's traditions for Big Game week?
Jack: I'll just focus on one I particularly like: the Bearial. The Stanford band dresses up in funeral black, marches through campus, stops at a fountain in the center of everything, reads Oski's last rites, and brutally murders a teddy bear in the fountain. The fountains run red with Oski's blood. Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0DcCAM50UI
2. Rumour has it the Band won't be making the trip up to Berkeley. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Jack: The LSJUMB is serving a one-year travel suspension for violating university policies on alcohol, drugs, sexual harassment and hazing. So while the Stanford band is known for being free-spirited, the university decided that they had to reign it in a little bit.
3. What was the biggest reason behind Stanford's midseason offensive struggles?
Jack: Probably the most important factor in Stanford's midseason struggles was an overwhelmed offensive line. In Stanford 1-3 midseason stretch, they gave up 17 sacks in those four games. Ryan Burns didn't have a lot of time to throw, and he looked more and more gun-shy in the pocket during that time. His three-interception day against Colorado was the final straw to get him bumped from the starting spot, but it certainly wasn't all his fault. A banged-up Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love didn't help either.
Colton Molesky: Christian McCaffrey's injury was problematic, as he was not himself after the USC game, However, the bigger issue was the need to find the starting quarterback. As hard as Ryan Burns tried, he was not their guy. He struggled to push the ball down the field, which is needed to help open up the running game. The offensive line did not play aggressive and the unit as a whole played under their potential. The change at quarterback gave the team the kick in the pants they needed to re-jumpstart.
4. Keller Chryst had his best game against Oregon last week. Has the Stanford offense figured out the passing game or was it more a factor of playing an Oregon secondary that had struggled all season?
Jack: I think the extremity of the performance can probably be attributed to the woeful Oregon defense, but Chryst has been a welcome change for the Stanford offense. He's still prone to some bad decisions and bad throws, but his powerful arm and total fearlessness to let it fly has brought an element of explosiveness to the Cardinal offense that was sorely lacking.
Colton: If this was just a product of the Oregon defense, then the trend should continue as Cal gives up 45.6 points a game and 541 total yards a game. Both marks are higher than the Ducks. But I believe this will be more than a flash against poor defense, he has the arm to make big throws, the confidence to lead the offense and the running game to give him balance.
5. David Shaw shocked the world when, instead of taking a knee at the end of the first half against Oregon State, he decided to play aggressively. Has he been replaced by a mirror universe-version of himself?
Jack: We are through the looking glass. Shaw has largely been himself this season - that same proclivity for punting is still there - but he seems more confident in his talent and play calls over the last few weeks.
Colton: This is possible, but until proven this is my plan B theory. He finally made the switch to at quarterback and then started more aggressive play calling on both sides of the ball. He saw this team needed a boost and so staying aggressive is his response. Seems to be working so far.
6. Stanford lost both its starting corners midway through the season. How has the secondary looked in their absence? Is Meeks at 100%?
Jack: The Stanford secondary was pretty miserable without Quenton Meeks, but now is he back to 100% (or close to it) and he has totally returned the strength of the defense. It was a struggle without him and Alijah Holder - their size and ball skills are still markedly better than the backups at this point - but the return of Meeks has made a very real difference.
Colton: The secondary was in tough shape while they were away, however, they still had great safeties on the back end and Justin Reid may be the most impactful player outside of Meeks when all is said and done. Now the secondary is back on their feet and while I would say Meeks is at 80 or 90 percent, that is enough to lock up receivers for the last two games.
7. What (or who) do you think are the keys to the game?
Jack: I think it's certainly Keller Chryst from Stanford's point of view. If he's able to repeat his superb performance from a week ago, Stanford should be in good shape, but if he's still got growing pains, this game will be much closer and could easily tip in Cal's favor. Given that McCaffrey is back and healthy and we should know what he can do on offense, it's a question of whether Chryst can keep the offense on track and scoring. Cal is going to score points, so you have to outscore them. Pretty simple stuff, in my mind.
Colton: Michael Rector has had a down year after the expectations were high, but over the last few weeks he has become a significant threat in the red zone. As this was an are Stanford struggled in, it is important to have a big receiver getting touchdowns on that end of the field. The biggest overall impact will be the coaching staff, particularly Shaw, stay aggressive and not take the pressure off the of the gas pedal.
8. How do you see this year's Big Game going (score or otherwise)?
Jack: I think Stanford wins, 38-21. McCaffrey has 200+ total yards and three touchdowns.
Colton: Because of a healthy McCaffrey and Chryst's ability an confidence in the deep ball, I see a bit of a shootout. Stanford wins because of a defense that will make more plays in a 47-28 throw down.
9. Who do you want to punch in the face?
Jack: I always say Larry Scott, and there's no reason to stop now.
Colton: Davis Webb, but only to throw him off for game day.