clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Big Game Q&A: A chat with Rule of Tree

Dining with the enemy

NCAA Football: Arizona at Stanford D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

We welcome Rule of Tree to the site, but can’t say we expect them to stay for long.

Which player on offense should Cal fans know about?

I’m just going to assume Cal fans know about Davis Mills--a former five-star recruit who just broke Stanford’s passing game record. With that said, Cal fans need to know about Simi Fehoko, who has become a Mills’ favorite. He’s a deep-ball threat that got Stanford back in the game versus Washington State. He’s also a popular red zone target this year and has found the end zone six times. Keep an eye on the Mills-Fehoko connection.

Which player on defense should Cal fans know about?

Well, Paulson Adebo is out, so don’t worry about him. There’s no great defensive star outside Adebo, which showed last week versus Washington State. Cal’s biggest concern though should be Casey Toohill, who will play in his final Big Game. Last year, senior linebacker Bobby Okereke stepped up big, and I expect Toohill to do the same this year. Toohill’s been the senior leader this year and will be extra motivated knowing it’s his last chance to defend the Axe.

Who’s one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for you?

Probably Cameron Scarlett. I think he’s an underrated running back in the PAC-12. When Scarlett and Stanford run the ball well, they typically win. Against Washington, Scarlett ran the ball for 151 yards, which allowed Stanford to control the ball and the game. If Scarlett finds success early, David Shaw can stick to his game plan and control the clock. I don’t see how Stanford can lose if Scarlett plays well, but that’s an if.

What does Stanford need to do to win the game?

As noted above, it’s all about time of possession for Stanford. They got into a shootout last week versus Washington State and lost easily despite Mills’ 504 yards. Stanford’s offense needs to stay on the field. To succeed, they’ll need an efficient Mills on third down and a dependable Scarlett on first and second. The Stanford defense is really depleted, so they less time they spend on the field the better. Stanford needs to keep this a low scoring game with long offensive possessions.

What does Cal need to do to win the game?

Throw the ball well. Whoever starts for the Bears’ will face the most injured secondary in the PAC-12. Preseason All-American Paulson Adebo has been ruled out, and three other players from the secondary are likely to join him in street clothes. If Cal can’t throw the ball, something is going seriously wrong for them.

How do you see the game going?

I almost never pick against Stanford, and I certainly won’t predict Cal as the winner. I tend to pick with my heart rather than head, and in this case, I will again. Stanford will win 23-17 because they have the quarterback advantage, and I think Stanford’s offense will just do their best to avoid Weaver. I think Mills’ extends drives just as he did versus Washington, and I think an interception prone Devin Modster throws a key pick that decides the game.

What is the identity of this team? Stanford went from a run-first team that could play defense to... what exactly?

I’ve been exploring this issue on my weekly blog, Charlie’s Cardinal Corner, and I would say that Stanford has lost their physicality in general. They just don’t run the ball or rush the quarterback with confidence. They’re clearly stuck in-transition, and David Shaw doesn’t seem to know if he should accept being a pass-first team or a run-first team. As a result, fans, and opposing teams, just don’t know what to expect from the Cardinal each week.

Whom do you most want to punch in the face?

I’ve never punched anyone in the face, but if I had to choose someone, I’d pick the Houston Astros. Why? Because I’m a Dodgers fan, and I feel very robbed of the 2017 World Series after the Astros’ cheating scandal came to light.