October 20, 2012; Berkeley, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal quarterback Josh Nunes (6) throw the ball against the California Golden Bears during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford Cardinal vs. Cal Bears: Comparing the Bay Area Rivals


There are few college football rivalries as fierce and as storied as Stanford vs. Cal.

Their traditional matchup is so prestigious, in fact, that it is known simply as “The Big Game.” The most notable play in the history of the rivalry itself, the 1982 debacle when Cal ran back a miracle kick through the Stanford band to win the game, is known as “The Play.”

April 13, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw (black polo) leads his team onto the field during the Cardinal

While this matchup has a rich history, it has been a bit one-sided over the past few seasons. The Cardinal have beat out the Bears over three straight years after a one-score upset back in 2009. In addition, the two teams are currently sitting on two opposite ends of the spectrum. On one hand, Stanford has locked itself in as a national powerhouse coming off of a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory.

On the other hand, Cal recently fired long-term head coach Jeff Tedford, to the shock and dismay of many fans, and hired Sonny Dykes of Louisiana Tech to replace him. The Bears finished last season at 3-9 with only two conference victories, and have lost arguably their best player in Keenan Allen.

Though the numbers may not show it, however, Cal has put up a good fight in the Pac-12 North. In 2010, they almost upset the eventual undefeated conference champion Oregon in Berkeley, and they fell by only seven points to Ohio State in 2012.

While there is not quite as much of a disparity as the numbers or records may indicate, I still think it is clear that Stanford has the edge, both in the long run and the short run.

With head coach David Shaw back for another year, and Kevin Hogan emerging as one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation down the stretch last season, I think the Cardinal have at least a few years before they leave the national spotlight.

The Golden Bears are in rebuilding mode. The coaching change combined with those stadium renovations that took place during the 2011 season have had a big psychological effect in Berkeley, and many fans feel as though the slate has been wiped clean.

Former Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes will take over for Jeff Tedford in 2013.

While the team is starting fresh, it certainly has a long way to go before they can return to greatness, at least at the level that Stanford has been playing at for three or four years now.

Stanford has also been welcoming in recruits from all over the country while Cal has been losing even native northern Californian recruits to Oregon for a few years.

Every Pac-12 fan knows never to sleep on the Golden Bears. However, looking at the talent, both on the field and on the sidelines, coupled with the rising trend in Stanford’s recruiting, I would say that the Cardinal currently have the signficant edge in the Big Game rivalry.

Tags: Cal Bears Cal Golden Bears California Golden Bears Football NCAA Stanford Cardinal Stanford Cardinal Football

  • Richard O’Bryan

    “The Play” was Cal returning the ball for a touchdown through the Stanford band.

  • billybob

    I can’t believe you freakin’ botched the facts of The Play!!! It’s obvious you didn’t run your story by a living human. It’s beyond embarrassment that you got it wrong. I stopped reading at this point. How was The Play “a debacle? ” It was the greatest, most memorable & well known play in the history of CFB!!!!! Shame on you! The best result from that game was that it knocked elway out of a bowl game!

  • paleodan

    LOLOLOLOLOL