Stanford 20, Cal 23
I want Stanford to win as much as the next person, but unfortunately, I already know exactly how this game is going to play out. Step one: Stanford comes out of the tunnel and plays abysmal offense with their flawed offensive line, as they try to run Bryce Love 20 times before the half. They pick up three first downs and are shut out in the first half. Step two: Our lack of a pass rush makes Chase Garbers look like Aaron Rodgers; he carves us up to the tune of two touchdowns and three field goals. Step three: Trailing 0-23 at the half, KJ Costello will emerge from the tunnel like the second coming of Andrew Luck and lead the most immaculate comeback attempt in Big Game history. It will be breathtaking. Step four: Lance Anderson’s halftime wizardry solves all of the defense’s problems and they shut out Cal in the second half. Step five: The comeback falls just short for any number of reasons. Unfortunately, this has been the script of every Stanford performance, and we already used up our miracle in Oregon.
Stanford 30, Cal 27
I think this is the game where we see K.J. Costello start to be comfortable under pressure. It’s hard to see Cal’s secondary matching up against our receiver corps, but I don’t think they’ll be able to contain Bryce Love either. My hot take is that Love rushes for more than 200 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the ball, I think that Stanford’s defense will have a tough time stopping Ross Bowers, so this is going to be a close game. Regardless of the score, the game will be decided by four points or less.
Stanford 22, Cal 21
A 43-yard Bryce Love touchdown run and another KJ Costello to Colby Parkinson connection puts the Cardinal up 14-0 early. However, with their offense stifled by a staunch Cal defense, Cal manages a touchdown to close the gap to seven at halftime. A scoreless third quarter for both sides precedes a long Cal drive to tie the game in the fourth quarter. With under 30 seconds remaining, a vintage KJ to JJ fade seemingly ties the game. However, head coach David Shaw shocks everyone in Memorial Stadium and goes for two, demoralizing the Bears, winning the 121st Big Game, and securing the Stanford Axe for a ninth straight year.
Stanford 24, Cal 21
Stanford can no longer rely on their rushing game. It hasn’t been working for them this season, period. The Cardinal average the second lowest rushing yards per game (108.2) within the conference. If Stanford wants to find their ninth consecutive Big Game win, KJ Costello will need to be on point in the air. Effective passing and route running will be essential for a Cardinal win. If the Stanford can do that, then the axe will surely remain in the hands of its rightful owner.
Stanford 23, Cal 21
The 121st Big Game will be a barn burner. Down 21-14 with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Stanford will receive Cal’s punt. After being slowed by Cal’s defense throughout the game, Bryce Love will finally break through for a 55-yard run. The Cardinal will complete the drive with a KJ Costello completion to JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Coach Shaw will shock the world by going for two, running the same exact play that scored Arcega-Whiteside’s touchdown. The pass will be broken up and the conversion will be unsuccessful. Stanford’s defense will save the day with a quick three and out, setting the stage for a game-winning field goal by backup kicker Collin Riccitelli.
Stanford 17, Cal 20
As much as I hate to do this…Streaks as historic as Stanford’s eight-year stretch of dominance in Big Games eventually come to an end. This season just seems like the perfect storm for that to happen. Cal is having perhaps their best season in a decade; Stanford is having what might be their worst. The Bears’ defense is the best unit on the field, and with all of Stanford’s injuries on defense, the Cal offense will find a way to score points as well. KJ Costello and the Cardinal offense will move the ball on the vaunted Cal secondary, but an ugly, low-scoring battle in Berkeley favors the Bears.
Stanford 0, Cal 0
Right before kickoff, star kicker and aspiring country rock guitarist Jet Toner, who was set to make his triumphant return, goes into the stands to warn fans about the dangers of wildfires and ecological devastation. He rallies both teams to commit to playing only if they can wear air masks instead of helmets to counteract the smoke. The refs talk it over and decide to accept, but they take so long to come to a decision that by that point Toner has mobilized the stadium into a protest march towards Sacramento. With no one to kickoff and no fans, the game gets postponed. The Axe splits in half, as it will remain for centuries until Thor’s dwarves mend it in that giant forge where they made the infinity stones gauntlet. RIP Stan Lee.
Stanford 31, Cal 17
Assuming Stanford continues their dominant pass game, this game should be a solid W for the Cardinal. Costello has shown over the past few weeks that he is capable of leading a commanding artillery. With giant targets such Kaden Smith, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Colby “Beaver Trapper” Parkinson, the offense is poised for a high scoring night. If, however, the team we see on Saturday is the Cardinal of Yore where running backs are drilled into the line of scrimmage for three straight downs, then expect a 10-7 Golden Bears blowout.
Stanford 21, Cal 17
Coming off their momentum from their victory against Oregon State, Stanford will carry a strong offense into this year’s Big Game. Cal’s biggest concern on defense will be Stanford’s tall receivers — including 6’7” Colby Parkinson, who tied the school’s single game record last weekend with four touchdowns, and 6’5” Kaden Smith, another standout. With 6’3” JJ Arcega-Whiteside likely to return after his injury, the Golden Bears will have to find a way to stop the Cardinal’s highly effective (read: tall) passing scheme.
Stanford 28, Cal 17
The Stanford defense does the job, but doesn’t look great. Cal’s offense struggles painfully, but they have a few long runs that keep them in the game. They throw a pick or two. The Stanford offense plays well; they lose some drives to Shaw’s insistence on the inside run game but air it out enough to put points up. Costello throws a pick somewhere in the middle of the game. Lots of short passing, tight ends continue get involved. Arcega-Whiteside has another Randy Moss-esque touchdown. Standard stuff.
Stanford 24, Cal 17
A major clash of styles. Offense vs defense. The 121st Big Game won’t be as easy as the last few years have been for the Cardinal, who have won eight straight in the rivalry. Cal has a phenomenal defense―they are allowing less than 15 points per game over their last three games, including a second half shutout against USC. Linebackers Evan Weaver and Jordan Kunaszyk are in the top three in the Pac-12 in tackles, and compared to the abysmal Oregon State defense that Stanford shredded for 48 points, they’ll be a much stiffer test. Stanford is averaging more than 32 points per game this season and will likely return JJ Arcega-Whiteside on Saturday. In what should be a low scoring game, the bottom line is that Cal can’t score. Chase Garbers has thrown for under 155 yards per game over his last three games, and averaged barely 3.5 yards per attempt his last time out against USC. Cal’s defense is good enough to carry them to a win, but only if their offense can produce. Which it can’t.