Week 8 - Stanford at California

Posted Oct 18, 2012

Week 8 Fearless Prediction - Stanford at California

Stanford (4-2) at Cal (3-4) Oct. 20, 3:00, Fox

Here's The Deal: Berkeley will be the sight of the 115th chapter of the Big Game, one of the most storied and continuous rivalries in college football. While Stanford needs no extra motivation for retaining The Axe, it will need to shake off last week's emotional loss to Notre Dame that ended on a disputed call in overtime. Losers of two of its last three games, the Cardinal remains on the fringe of Pac-12 North contention, but won't remain there with a loss this week at Memorial Stadium. Cal's resurgence from a disturbing 1-4 start will be complete if it can deliver an upset on Saturday. Answering a wicked three-game stretch in the second half of September, the Bears have rallied for back-to-back wins over UCLA and Washington State. Everything in this week's meeting has a knack for getting magnified in Northern California, so a win—or a loss—could dictate what happens over the final month of the regular season.

Why Stanford Might Win: Cal is at its most dangerous when it can run the ball successfully with C.J. Anderson, Isi Sofele and Brendan Bigelow, but it's not likely to happen against this front seven of the Cardinal. Stanford ranks seventh nationally against the run, yielding just 2.8 yards per carry, and have only had one poor defensive effort all year. The all-important battle in the trenches should wind up being a mismatch that favors the visitors. While the Bears rank a dismal 118th nationally in sacks allowed, Stanford boasts one of the nation's toughest front sevens and most assertive pass rushes. Linebackers Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy, in particular, are big, physical and rarely far from the action.

Why Cal Might Win: Sure, it's only been two games, but the Bears have been cleaning up their act of late in a number of different areas. Anderson has been revelatory, QB Zach Maynard is getting the ball to WR Keenan Allen consistently and the defense is coming up with a lot of big plays. The cornerbacks, Marc Anthony, Steve Williams and rookie Kameron Jackson, have been especially disruptive, a concern for inconsistent Cardinal QB Josh Nunes. Nunes and the rest of the offense have been unreliable all season, failing to score more than 21 points in four of their first six games.

What To Watch Out For: Cal's young linebackers, comprised of four up-and-coming underclassmen, are going to get a crash course in coverage skills this weekend. Nunes loves to utilize his tight ends, and who can blame him? Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz are big, sure-handed and blessed with a catch radius that'll help a quarterback's completion percentage. Plus, if top receiver Ty Montgomery is out for a second straight game, the Cardinal might not even bother testing the Bears cornerbacks on the boundary.

What Will Happen: Cal has narrowed the gap on its chief rival, but it won't be able to shut it completely. While the Bears have stabilized, they remain a young squad, with questionable play up front. Stanford will take advantage, both on defense and when it has the ball. The Cardinal will harass Maynard, chasing him from the pocket, and forcing him into costly mistakes. The offense will once again be led by Taylor, who'll outplay Anderson in a tight and intriguing duel. The game will be close and intense, as most are, with Stanford walking away with The Axe for a third year in a row.

CFN Prediction: Stanford 24 … Cal 21
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Stanford -2.5 O/U: 48.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Seven Psychopaths, 1 – Here Comes the Boom): 3