The Big Game has more meaning this Saturday than it has in several years as Stanford can clinch the Pac-12 North Division with a victory over arch-rival California. Check our college football pick.
California Can Improve Bowl Stock
The Bears (6-4, 3-4) ended a four-game losing streak and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 with last Saturday's 54-24 rout of visiting Oregon State. Cal quarterback Jared Goff completed 26-for-37 for a 453 yards (season high) and tied his own school record for touchdown passes in regulation with six. Maurice Harris had with four catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns, while Tre Watson rushed for a career-high 110 yards on 10 carries. The Bears had 760 yards of total offense, breaking the school record of 729 yards set against Washington in 2003. They rushed for 307 yards, their most since Oct. 13, 2012 at Washington State (318).
Goff, named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career, became the sixth player in Pac-12 history to throw for 3,000 yards in three seasons (Derek Anderson, Matt Leinart, Andrew Walter, Sean Mannion and Brett Hundley) and the second to do it in his first three seasons (UCLA's Hundley).
This game doesn't really affect Cal's standing in the Pac-12 but obviously the Bears would love to ruin Stanford's chances of winning the Pac-12 title. There's some talk that Cal head coach Sonny Dykes could leave after this season if there's an opening at a school in his home state of Texas. If he were to take another job before Dec. 31, Dykes would owe Cal a $2 million buyout. If he were to leave after that date, the figure drops to $1 million.
Cal is 5-5 against the spread on college football odds and 3-7 'over/under.'
Stanford Can't Afford Another Loss
The Cardinal's chances of reaching the College Football Playoff are on life support following their 38-36 upset home loss to Oregon last week. That also kept the Ducks alive for the Pac-12 North title. Oregon must win this week against Southern Cal and next against Oregon State and have Stanford lose here.
Stanford (8-2, 7-1) cut the Ducks' lead to 38-36 on a Kevin Hogan 4-yard pass to Greg Taboada with 10 seconds left, but a Hogan 2-point conversion pass to tight end Austin Hooper was broken up. Stanford had no trouble moving the ball with 506 total yards and more than 42 minutes of possession but it also had three turnovers. Hogan threw for 304 yards, and Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey rushed 33 times for 147 yards and a touchdown. He now has 2,418 all-purpose yards, tops in the nation and which breaks Glyn Milburn’s 1992 school record of 2,234. McCaffrey’s eighth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance broke Toby Gerhart’s 2009 record of seven.
But the Cardinal defense wasn't at its usual excellent level. Oregon’s five touchdown drives included plays of 49, 75, 47, 33, and 49 yards. The Ducks’ total time of possession during those drives was 6:29. Stanford lost to two starting defensive backs at different points in the game in cornerback Ronnie Harris and safety Dallas Lloyd.
That defeat dropped Stanford from No. 7 to No. 11 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings. It's hard to see how the Cardinal can get into the playoff. They'd have to win this game big, next week's finale against No. 4 Notre Dame and the Pac-12 title game while also getting plenty of help around the country.
Interesting note for this game in that Cardinal fifth-year senior defensive end will make his Big Game debut. Scarlett, Stanford’s first-ever graduate transfer, joined the Cardinal after four seasons at Cal. He never played in the Big Game due to injury.
Stanford is 7-3 ATS on college football picks and 5-5 'over/under.'
Cal hosted Stanford last year and the Cardinal rolled to a 38-17 win as Remond Wright ran for four touchdowns. Stanford's defense forced five turnovers, with Blake Martinez picking off two Goff passes and forcing a fumble. Hogan was 15-for-20 for 214 yards and an interception. McCaffrey had only three carries. Goff was 16-for-31 for 182 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. That win, the Cardinal's fifth straight in the series, got Stanford bowl eligible and kept Cal from doing so. The last time these teams played in Palo Alto, Stanford won 63-13 in 2013 -- the largest margin of victory in the rivalry. That win also got Stanford the Pac-12 North title.
Cal really only has one quality win this season: over Washington State. The Cardinal have the best defense the Bears will see. Stanford also is 12-1 under Coach David Shaw after a loss. Thus give the points and go 'over.' The Bears are 1-4 ATS in their past five vs. teams with a winning record. Stanford is 8-1 ATS in its past nine after a loss. The 'over' is 6-1 in Stanford's past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The 'over' is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
College Football Picks: Stanford -11 & Over 64.5 at 5Dimes