114th Big Game Preview
Cal (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) at Stanford (9-1, 7-1 Pac-12)
November 19 at 7:15 p.m. PT on ESPN
Cal Players to Watch
WO #1 Marvin Jones - The explosive senior has caught a pass in 35 straight games for the Bears. Is a sure-handed, consistent and savvy route runner. Very capable player who would have much bigger numbers if not for teammate Keenan Allen.
RB #20 Isi Sofele - A tough and hard-nosed runner with very good quickness hitting the hole. Gets to top speed fast and routinely makes yards after contact. Has become a big weapon for the Bears offense as of late.
LB #30 Mychal Kendricks - The best player on a talented defense, Kendricks has impressive quickness and determination getting to the ball. Explosive tackler and a major factor in every game Cal plays. Has 75 tackles, 2 interceptions and is a very active blitzer.
DL #95 Ernest Owusu - Has impressive pass rush skill while posting 4.5 sacks in only seven starts this season. This is a size/speed player who plays the game with passion. Doesn't get the recognition of other teammates but this senior definitely has an NFL future.
DB #2 Marc Anthony - Very athletic corner with solid man to man cover skills. Has 9 PBU's on the season while teams continue to throw away from him. Can close fast on underneath routes and has catch up speed deep. Makes big plays in big games.
Stanford Players to Watch
QB #12 Andrew Luck - Expect Luck to bounce back after last week's loss to Oregon. Outstanding leader who can run as well as throw. He likes to set up the vertical game with an excellent ground attack and several short throws to RB's and TE's.
TE #82 Coby Fleener -With 8 TD's on only 24 catches, the big senior TE is difficult to stop in the Red Zone. He possesses rare speed for the position and is one of the top vertical route runners in the college game.
RB #33 Stepfan Taylor - The junior runner is over the 1,000 yard mark for the season as he runs with both power and elusiveness and is also dangerous as a pass receiver. He must be contained in order for the Cal Bears to have a chance at the upset.
RB #25 Tyler Gaffney - The 215-pound junior is an ideal compliment to starter Stepfan Taylor as the Cardinal doesn't miss a beat when he enters the game. His impressive 6.5 average per carry and 6 TDs gives the Card a powerful one-two punch in the backfield. He is more of a north/south style runner with very good cutback vision.
OLB #44 Chase Thomas - Brings a lot of energy and temperament to the Cardinal defense with a relentless style of play that has allowed him to make 14.5 TFL's and 6.5 sacks on the year. Is the prototype NFL 3-4 OLB who can play the run as well as rush the passer. Needs to be accounted for.
The 114th Big Game is setting up to be a lot closer than many people think. The key match up will be the Cardinal offense versus the Cal defense. Everyone knows the scoring potential of the Stanford offense, but few know the Cal defense is loaded with very good athletes that have the potential to shut down opponents run game. Led by senior LB's Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt, who are both quick and aggressive, the Cal defensive line has a deep rotation including some young and talented players like Mustafa Jalil and Deandre Coleman. This Cal defense has only allowed 48 yards rushing per game in its last two contests.
The Stanford defense will have to bounce back after last week's loss to the vaunted Oregon offensive attack. A big key will be stopping Cal RB Isi Sofele and forcing QB Zach Maynard to throw where he can be erratic with his accuracy. Cal's offensive line is very good and has played together in nine of ten games this season without any changes. Led by Sofele, the Bears have rushed for an impressive 294 yards in its last two games. Stanford's defensive line led by 290-pound Matt Masifilo will have to occupy blockers and allow their LB's to plug gaps and close off running lanes, which is difficult to do for four quarters. Look for Cal to hit some vertical throws to receivers Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones in one on one match ups. Stanford OLB Chase Thomas will likely force QB Zach Maynard to roll away from pressure and make several throws on the move.
This game will be about turnovers, so QB's Andrew Luck and Zach Maynard will have to be very efficient and not force passes into coverage because the outcome will be about game management and ball control as well as momentum shifts. This should be a classic Big Game match up that could very well come down to the wire.