Video: Breaking down the Big Game rivalry

Stanford-Cal looks like a mismatch on paper, but you can throw records out of the window in rivalry games (Washington fans don’t need to be reminded of last year’s Apple Cup – oops.) One needs to look no further back than the 2006 Big Game, when a one-win Stanford squad (arguably the worst team in Stanford history) hung with an eventual 10-win Golden Bears team for the whole game before losing by just nine points. Speaking of looking back…

Series History: This year’s game will be the 116th version of the Big Game, with Stanford leading the all-time series 58-46-11. But the series is less one-sided than that when you consider: Stanford has scored just 70 more points than Cal in the history of this rivalry (1,899-1,829), meaning the average score of a game between these two is 17-16 Stanford when rounding to the nearest whole number (six-tenths of a point is the difference between Cal and Stanford on average). That said, Stanford has won the last three games in the series, two of which were by at least 18 points.

Memorable Moment: Everyone who has watched college football for some amount of time certainly knows about “The Play”: Cal’s five-lateral, 57-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to beat Stanford 25-20 as time expired ("The band is out on the field!"). Stanford fans will point out that there was a forward lateral and that one of the Cal players was down before lateraling the football (this Cardinal grad isn’t bitter – not at all!). But it stands as one of the most iconic plays in the history of college football.

Big Game Traditions: Cal students and players are fond of a bonfire rally at the Greek Theater the night before the contest, where the team speaks to the fans about the game and the history of the Axe (the trophy handed out to the winner of the Big Game) while singing the school fight song. Over on The Farm, Stanford students enjoy Gaieties, a play put on by the Ram’s Head Theatrical Society during Big Game week that will poke fun at anything and everything, including a certain school in Berkeley.

Three players to watch for Cal:

  1. Jared Goff – Sonny Dykes threw the true freshman into the fire by naming him the team’s starting quarterback in fall camp, and for the most part, he has been pretty solid this year. Despite a few down performances, Goff is third in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game (301.3) and has completed more than 60 percent of his passes.
  2. Kenny Lawler – Chris Harper leads the team in receiving yards, but Lawler has 18 catches for 207 yards and five touchdowns in the last three games, with one of those paydirt grabs being this unbelievable one-handed snag against Arizona (wowsers).
  3. Vincenzo D’Amato – one of the most accurate kickers in the Pac-12, the senior D’Amato has not missed from inside of 45 yards this season and nailed a season-long 51-yarder against UCLA earlier this year. If Cal is able to keep it within shouting distance, you could see this guy pop up a lot on your TV screen.

Three players to watch for Stanford:

  1. Tyler Gaffney – back from baseball’s minor leagues, Gaffney has put on a show this season, rushing for 1,201 yards and 15 touchdowns in his return to The Farm in 2013 (he also has a touchdown reception). More impressively, Super Gaff has run for at least 145 yards in each of his last four games, including a 45-carry, 157-yard performance to help lift Stanford to a second-straight defeat of Oregon back on Nov. 7. Dude is a straight up HOSS, as evidenced by this TD run against USC a few days back.
  2. Trent Murphy – he leads the nation in sacks, which is probably all you need to know why he is included in this list. This is one tough dude who enjoyed steer wrestling and self-defense lessons with his father growing up.
  3. Shayne Skov – what’s this, another Cardinal linebacker to look out for? Well when he’s the team’s leading tackler who has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, then yeah.
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