Widgets Magazine

Chen: Big Game is the biggest game of this lost season

Forget the double-overtime loss on Saturday. Forget the blowouts in Eugene and Tempe. Forget the heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame and the let’s-not-score-in-the-red-zone debacle against USC.

Forget everything. Hard as it may be, purge those macabre thoughts from your memory. In a tumultuous season where Cardinal fans have outright booed the offense for its incomprehensible ineptitude and head coach David Shaw for his constant conservatism, Stanford will start with a clean slate this Saturday by playing its biggest game of the season.

Make no mistake, Saturday is the most important day of the Cardinal’s 2014 season. For the first time this decade, “Beat Cal” carries meaning and Big Game is actually a big game. And that’s awesome. Stanford and Cal meeting in mid-November with the same record — at 5-5, no less — would have been a laughable prediction at the start of the season, but for better or worse, that’s where the two rivals finds themselves right now.

Beating Cal could be the deciding factor in Stanford’s bowl eligibility, but more importantly, it draws the rapidly blurring line between what has been a frustrating rebuilding year from what could be a full-blown, mind-numbing catastrophe. Getting taken to the woodshed by Oregon is understandable — there aren’t many teams who don’t get eviscerated by the Ducks. Losing to USC, Notre Dame, Arizona State and Utah is not understandable, but also not entirely embarrassing (remember we’re talking about only results here; watching how the Cardinal offense produced those losses is an entirely different story).

But I can’t even imagine how much it would suck if Stanford was to fall to Cal after whooping the Bears 63-13 just a year ago. The only thing worse than losing to Cal would be forcing me to watch Stanford’s offense Clockwork Orange-style. Just think how ludicrous it would’ve been if someone told you right after Big Game last year that Stanford would have a legitimate chance of losing this season’s Big Game — for a current comparison, that’d be like saying that the Los Angeles Lakers are going to make the playoffs this year and then somehow beat the Clippers.

What’s awesome about Saturday is that we’ll get the chance to see a battle of the worsts: Stanford’s offense vs. Cal’s defense. If Stanford’s offense needed to score 24 points to win, who do you pick to win the matchup? Seriously, who?

This season has been almost comical in terms of Stanford’s performance on offense and the way it’s lost some of the games. In the Shaw era, Stanford has never been known to be a team to beat itself, but this season, that’s all Stanford has been known for, whether it’s tanking in the red zone or simply not moving the ball at all. Outside of the defense, there are literally zero things that Cardinal fans can point to and say, “We’re good at that.” That’s why this Saturday is so important. If Stanford beats Cal, then things are still bearable and this season is salvaged because fans will have at least one thing to hang their hats on this season. I could care less whether Stanford beats UCLA or not. If we beat Cal and then lose to UCLA by 30 in Pasadena the next weekend, I’d be okay with that result 100 percent.

I’m a senior who’s covered Stanford football for three years, and the only thing others and I have known in our time on the Farm is the fact that the Cardinal are much, much better than the Bears on the football field. “Cal beating Stanford” is not even a sentence we can comprehend. I’ve come to terms that Stanford football just isn’t good this year, but I cannot accept losing to Cal.

Let’s beat Cal, and let Nov. 22, 2014, be the day that Stanford’s 2014 season was saved. And if Stanford wins, let’s rush the field at Cal Memorial Stadium. After what we’ve been put through this season, why the hell not?

George Chen is just bitter because the football team didn’t give him a cool introduction and the opportunity to run onto the field as part of Senior Day against Utah. Reassure him that you all love him regardless at gchen15 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About George Chen

George Chen is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily who writes football, football and more football. Previously he worked at The Daily as the President and Editor in Chief, Executive Editor, Managing Editor of Sports, the football beat reporter and a sports desk editor. George also co-authored The Daily's recent book documenting the rise of Stanford football, "Rags to Roses." He is a senior from Painted Post, NY majoring in Biology. To contact him, please email at gchen15@stanford.edu.
  • John Curtiss

    George, another very frustrating game to watch. I am a huge Christian McCaffrey fan as I watched him all through high school. He still looks like an elite player even as a true freshman. For the life of me, given Stanford’s lack of offensive punch, I don’t know why they didn’t play him more. I see he got more action this week. But too little too late. We’ll see what next week brings.

  • ADPATERSON79

    You nailed it, George. I shared your column on my Class of ’79 blog (reunion year).
    BIG GAME WEEK 2014 (this year it IS big).
    Rally on campus tonight (boy, do we need it) to start the festivities, with the Axe on view; we’ve held it since 2009 game. Stanford favored by 6.5, and I think the Over/Under is 9 points. I’ve reminded folks all season that Cal Sucks; so now we must prove it, over there. I don’t want to write the headline if Grubby Bears pull it out late on a kick return.
    Solace: Set aside Oregon, we have beaten all three of the North Div foes. Our other losses are all to South Div, plus N.Dame. Cal has not held a single opponent below 30 points this season (Hope stirs!). They are a Hail Mary away from being bowl eligible already, losing 59-60 to WSU in Pullman.
    Anyone with a bold offensive play that might work, especially in the Red Zone, is eligible for a private audience with Coach Shaw. [My idea: Throw the ball from a Hurry-up spread, and run the Read-option — look like Oregon. We score out of that mode. Ditch Jumbo and Wildcat. We have speed this year on Offense; other teams have caught up on the Power game.]
    Let’s face it; the Defense must score — period. Cal looks a lot like WSU, throwing it 60%+, but mixing in more of Lasco on the run. Stuff Lasco.
    I would blitz nearly every down; make Goff cough it up. Scoop-n-Score.
    ADP
    Stanford Daily, Spring 1978

  • seesdifferent

    “My idea: Throw the ball from a Hurry-up spread, and run the Read-option — look like Oregon. We score out of that mode. Ditch Jumbo and Wildcat. We have speed this year on Offense; other teams have caught up on the Power game.”

    Coach Shaw is a “late adopter.”