(Written by kencraw)
A month ago, I was pretty optimistic about the Big Game. Stanford was struggling, had recently changed QB’s and the rushing game wasn’t working. Also, the defense was looking softer than they had looked in a LOOONG time. Oh what a difference a month makes! Stanford has started to find their rhythm offensively (to their standards) and their defense has tightened up significantly. Don’t get me wrong, this is still not the power-house Stanford of a few years ago, but they’re a lot more solid than they were a month ago.
If Cal was entering the game as the same team as last year, I’d have a lot of hope. Even with Stanford improved, they’re still more vulnerable than usual. But the problem is that Cal is on the ropes right now in just about every phase of the game. The offense is sputtering, having failed to get to 30 points in any of their last 3 games. The rushing game, that was a meaningful threat and kept defenses honest has mysteriously disappeared. The deep passing game that both helped the Bears put up lots of points and ensured there was plenty of room for short and medium range passing is practically non-existent. And Webb hasn’t looked like himself, particularly in the mid-range stuff, since the Oregon State game.
And that’s the better of the two units!
The defense is an absolute mess. Any team that can competently pass the ball is going to destroy the Bear’s defense. There’s just no other way to say it. At their best point of the season they were acceptably mediocre. But between offenses adjusting to their weaknesses and a rash of injuries that has left them decimated, they’re officially horrible. The rush defense isn’t quite as bad, but is still in a pretty bad place. I think they look even worse than they really are because the linebackers and safeties are so preoccupied with their suckitude as a pass defense, they’re not able to properly focus on the run game.
And that’s where the potential silver lining lies…
Here’s what I would do if I were game-planning today: I’d put my corners on islands and tell me linebackers and safeties to play run-first. Tell the defense it’s OK if they get torched through the air, but it is unacceptable to lose through a thousand cuts to Christian McCaffrey. Force Stanford to prove they can beat the Bears through the air. Put a lot of pressure on Keller Chryst. Force Stanford to beat the Bears a way that is not very comfortable to them.
It might be that the Bears won’t be able to pull that off, but it’s the ONLY thing they have a remote chance of pulling off.
As for the offense, spread the field and focus on getting all four field spreading play types working: Deep passing, short passing, inside running, outside running. With the exception of the WR screens (which just aren’t working!), they should try to be VERY diverse.
But as one can obviously tell, I’m not sitting on a lot of hope that the Bears pull that off. So while I think there is a path to victory, the opportunity is slim. And thus my official prediction will be bleak:
Losing streak continues and no bowl game: Cal 17, Furd 42
(The theoretical win would look like Cal 45, Furd 38)