Stanford Cardinal Faces California Golden Bears In 120th Big Game

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Bryce Love /

The Stanford Cardinal will be clinging on to Pac-12 North title hopes when hosting the California Golden Bears in the 120th Big Game.

Courtesy of the Stanford Cardinal, the Pac-12 will have no representative in the College Football Playoff. The Washington Huskies could not sustain their early season momentum as Stanford upset the then ninth-ranked team in the country, 30-22.

Stanford dominated time of possession and kept Washington’s offense off the field. The Cardinal defense grew stronger throughout the contest, and a defensive stand late in the game denied the Huskies a chance to tie things up and force overtime.

Realistically, Washington would not have made the College Football Playoff even with a win over Stanford. Wins over Washington State and USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game would not have convinced the committee.

And in all likelihood, if the Huskies somehow had gotten the final spot, the top-ranked team would have probably blown them out anyway. Just as Alabama did last year.

Stanford Cardinal Football
Stanford Cardinal Football /

Stanford Cardinal Football

For the Cardinal, the win over the Huskies puts the team back into contention for the Pac-12 North title.

Stanford needs to take care of business this week, and hope Washington State loses next week to Washington in the Apple Cup.

The Cougars own the tiebreaker after defeating Stanford two weeks ago.

Implications are on the line for the Cal Golden Bears as well. With a record of 5-5, Cal needs one more win for bowl eligibility. A win over Stanford would allow Washington back into the Pac-12 North race, setting up a big showdown against Washington State.

Toughness is just one word to describe the Bears under first-year coach Justin Wilcox. Injuries have piled up since the season began. And as of now, 11 players on Cal’s roster have seen their season cut short.

Despite the injuries knocking starters out for the season, the next man up approach has kept Cal in the hunt for bowl eligibility. Tailbacks, Patrick Laird and Vic Enwere, thrived this season after Tre Watson went down. Watson was going to be the featured running back for Cal’s offense.

Inconsistent as a starter, Ross Bowers has grown into a leader for Cal. The quarterback won the starting job during camp as he made a strong impression on the coaching staff. He may not have gotten the opportunity had Sonny Dykes still been the head coach.

More from Golden Gate Sports

Stanford opens up as the favorites in the Big Game, but that has little meaning. In a rivalry game, both teams expect a physical battle where the outcome can go in either direction. The Cardinal cannot underestimate the Bears as the team has surprised opponents this season.

Cal got the Wilcox era off to a strong start with a road win at North Carolina. The Bears scored a big win for the Pac-12 by defeating SEC opponent, Ole Miss, at home. But the most significant victory came in a #Pac12AfterDark affair as Cal upset then eighth-ranked Washington State, 37-3.

But the road has been unkind to Cal since the win over North Carolina. Lopsided losses to Oregon, Washington, and Colorado show just some of the inconsistencies by Bowers and the Bears offense.

Bowers has shown vulnerability as he often gets overwhelmed by the defensive pressure.

Against Oregon, the constant pressure kept the Cal offense out of sync and unable to find traction. Also, errant throws have led to interceptions which kept Cal from having a chance to knock off USC in a 30-20 home loss.

A long day can be on hand for Cal if the offense cannot get their footing against a physical Stanford defensive line. Harrison Phillips and Peter Kalambayi have been the backbone of that line, helping keep the defense in check.

Justin Reid and Quenton Meeks have been formidable in the secondary and will be ready to pick-off Bowers should he sail a throw.

Bryce Love did not need any explosive runs last week to make his presence felt. The Heisman hopeful rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns against a Washington defense capable of stopping the run. Love was only the second rusher the Huskies defense allowed to run for 100-plus yards this season.

K.J. Costello will likely get the start again at quarterback for Stanford. With the power of Love setting a tone, Costello has found success in the passing game. He got a big game from JJ Arcega-Whiteside who tallied 130 yards against Washington. The Cardinal receivers made critical catches last week which kept the Huskies offense on the sidelines.

A win for Stanford will put pressure on Washington State to win the Apple Cup and the Pac-12 North. Should the Cougars fail, the Cardinal will play the Trojans for the Pac-12 Championship.

A win for Cal will give Coach Wilcox bowl eligibility in his first year at the helm. Cal has lost the Big Game the last seven years and would undoubtedly like to reclaim the Axe. If Cal loses, a win on the road against UCLA will be their last chance to secure an invitation to a bowl game.

Next: Stanford Cardinal Face Washington Huskies

The Big Game has plenty of implications on the line for both Stanford and Cal. Festivities are well underway on both campuses, leading up to Saturday’s contest. A competitive tilt is about to unfold and could come down to the wire.