Cal Football: The 122nd Big Game is Saturday - First Look at Stanford

Jeff Faraudo

Here is the early report on what you need to know about the Cardinal prior to Saturday’s 122nd Big Game:

KICKOFF: 1 p.m. Saturday at Stanford Stadium

TV: Pac-12 Networks

WEATHER FORECAST: It will be partly cloudy with a high of 65, light winds and no chance of rain Saturday at Stanford.

STANFORD 2019 RECORD: The Cardinal 4-6 overall, 3-5 in the Pac-12

LAST GAME: Stanford is coming off a 49-22 loss at Washington State in which it fell behind 19-0, rallied to within 25-22 then watched the Cougars score the game’s final 24 points. Junior quarterback Davis Mills, playing in place of injured starter K.J. Costello, set a Stanford record with 504 passing yards and threw three touchdowns. But the Cardinal had no answer for WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon, who passed for 520 yards and five touchdowns, including at least one in each quarter. 

THE SERIES: Stanford leads 64-46-11 in a series that began in 1892 and ranks as the sixth-longest between FBS opponents. The Cardinal has won nine straight meetings — the longest streak by either team in the all-time series — dating back to Cal’s most recent win, 34-28 in 2009.

STANFORD COACH: David Shaw, a Stanford alum and former assistant to Jim Harbaugh, has become the program’s most successful coach. He is 86-32 in his ninth season, has led the Cardinal to three Rose Bowls and won at least nine games in seven of his first eight seasons. He was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2011, ’12, ’15 and ’17. Shaw has never lost to Cal as Stanford’s head coach.

STANFORD STORYLINES: With six defeats, the Cardinal already has lost more games than any season since former coach Jim Harbaugh’s second season in 2008, when Stanford was 5-7. That was the last time Stanford failed to post a winning record and failed to reach a bowl game, but both outcomes are possible this season. The Cardinal needs wins against both Cal and Notre Dame to become bowl eligible. “We have a two-game season,” coach David Shaw said after the WSU loss. The arc of this season curved in the wrong direction almost from the start. After beating Northwestern in the opener, Stanford lost three in a row, by an average of more than 20 points. Quarterback K.J. Costello, a second-team All-Pac-12 pick a year ago, was injured in the Northwestern game and has been in and out of the lineup. Three different players have manned the position this season, and Stanford has faced serious injury issues along the offensive line, where three freshmen are now part of the starting group. The Cardinal’s once-punishing ground game now ranks 11th in the Pac-12, producing less than 107 rushing yards per game. Even Stanford’s defense, once as consistently good as any in the conference, ranks just eighth in the Pac-12, allowing 30.3 points per game. As a result, Stanford has been wildly unpredictable, and will enter the Big Game having lost three of four games. Its only victory over the past month came at the expense of slumping Arizona, back on Oct. 26.

STANFORD’S BEST PLAYER: It might be cornerback Paulson Adebo, a 2018 All-Pac-12 first-team pick who has eight interceptions the past two seasons and was rated by one scouting service as the No. 3 cornerback prospect for the 2020 NFL draft. But Adebo is injured and did not play Saturday at Washington State. His status for the Big Game is uncertain. Or it might be quarterback K.J. Costello, who passed for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns last season but has missed five games due to injury this fall, including the WSU game. It could even have been offensive tackle Walker Little, a preseason first-team All-American who is considered a first-round NFL pick. But the 6-foot-7, 309-pound junior suffered a left knee injury in the opener vs. Northwestern and had season-ending surgery.

BETTING LINE: Stanford opened as 1.5-point favorite, according to VegasInsider.com.

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