123rd Big Game Predictions

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Cal on top?

Daniel Martinez-Krams — Cal 35-27
In the 2020 season, Stanford needed its offense to be able to compensate for a porous defense. So far, the defense has been as lackluster as advertised and the offense has yet to piece it together for more than a quarter. While Cal is not the team it was expected to be, Chase Garbers is a mobile quarterback, which should be more than enough to put up some points. Cal keeps the Axe. 

Stanford on top?

Cybele Zhang  — Stanford 24-21
It’s ironically fitting that both Berkeley and Stanford are 0-2 and 0-2 in 2020. I will admit that I initially predicted the Golden Bears would prevail in the 123rd Big Game, but so much has changed in the last three weeks. Since the rivalry’s inception in 1892, this will be the first Big Game where both teams enter the rivalry game winless — in fact, neither team has won a game since 2019. 

Neither offense nor defense has been strong this season, but I’d give the Cardinal’s senior quarterback Davis Mills coupled with the sophomore running back duo of Austin Jones/Nathaniel Peat the slight advantage over the Bears’ quarterback Chase Garbers and running back Marcel Dancy. Both defenses are far from perfect, but Cal’s offense doesn’t have the same might as the Oregon or Colorado teams Stanford previously faced. If the Cardinal can prevent big plays down field — like the pass plays of 33, 44 and 52 yards the Golden Bears had against Oregon State — I think Stanford can hold on. And fifth year kicker Jet Toner can put us ahead just enough to pull off the win.

(Photo: BOB DREBIN/isiphotos.com)

Daniel Fishman — Stanford 17-14

2020 has been all but written off as a disaster, even for Stanford football. After starting 0-2, the team’s confidence seems lackluster. However, there have also been flashes of promise in the early going. The offensive line has shown an ability to dominate the line of scrimmage at times, and Austin Jones has proven to be the go-to man on offense. If Stanford can take a lead into the fourth quarter for the first time this season, they may just walk away with their first win as well. It should be a tight game all the way through, though Jet Toner will ice the game late in the final Big Game of his illustrious Stanford career.

Sofia Scekic — Stanford 34-31

We’ve only seen Davis Mills play one game this season, and it was a game in which he barely practiced in the week leading up to it. While the offense showed flashes of solid play in their season opener against Oregon, it took Mills and the other guys until the fourth quarter against Colorado to put together 15 minutes of consistently good play. The last-minute cancellation of the game against Washington State was likely disorienting, although the team is now coming off an extra week of rest while Cal is coming off a tough, close loss to Oregon State. If the Cardinal can take advantage of the momentum from the fourth quarter versus Colorado and the extra week of practice/rest, combined with the additional incentive to reclaim the Axe that Cal took last season for the first time since 2009, they should be able to win in a shootout. 

Jibriel Taha — Stanford 31-28

Stanford is coming off an extra week of rest, and Cal hasn’t proved it can stop the run in its first two games. As long as the Cardinal offensive line executes, things should open up for Davis Mills, who has now had two weeks to get back in sync with the offense after his false-positive COVID-19 test. Mobile quarterbacks have given the Cardinal defense fits in recent games, but the Cardinal should be able to take advantage of a depleted Cal offensive line and hold its ground against the Cal offense. The Axe heads back to Palo Alto.

Jeremy Rubin — Stanford 30-27

I started off my predictions for last year’s Big Game with, “Two ice-cold teams. Two backup quarterbacks (probably). One game, with major Pac-12 title implications on the line (just kidding, that ship sailed a long time ago). The stage is set for what should be a showdown” — and, to be honest, not much has changed (besides the backup quarterback part). 

These two teams are both sputtering along with 0-2 records, setting the stage for a relatively uninteresting Big Game compared to the storied history of the tradition. However, I do believe Stanford has what it takes to eke out a win. Cal is banged up, while if anything the Cardinal are just finding their stride after a fourth quarter comeback against Colorado that just barely fell short. Mills and the offense can muster up enough points — mostly via rushing touchdowns and field goals — to hold off Chase Garbers and the Golden Bears. Bring the Axe back home to the Farm; it’s been gone too long.

King Jemison — Stanford 33-28
This might be a battle of the two worst teams in the Pac-12, but I think that will make for a very competitive game. Chase Garbers and Davis Mills are inevitably linked as two rising QB stars on opposite sides of the Bay. Whereas Garbers won that matchup in last year’s Big Game, Mills will be the better QB on Friday. Stanford’s red-zone woes continue, but Jet Toner makes up for it. Stanford’s front seven finally gets some pressure against a depleted Cal offensive line, and Mills leads a game-winning revenge drive to take back the Axe. 

Ells Boone –– Stanford 38-28
Somebody has to get their first win on Friday. I think Davis Mills and the offense will come out fired up, having had this past weekend’s game canceled as well as not being happy with their play so far this season. Cal has not looked great this season either, and the Cardinal will have gotten time to rest and get healthier for this matchup. Hopefully Stanford’s defense will be better prepared to face a mobile quarterback than the first two games of the season. At the end of the day, I think the Cardinal offense will show what they can do and reclaim the Axe. 

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