Cal and Stanford were missing their starting quarterbacks in their most recent games, and their offenses suffered significantly without them.
However, both Chase Garbers of Cal and Tanner McKee of Stanford will be back in action on Saturday when Cal faces the Cardinal in the 124th Big Game on Saturday at Stanford.
Technically, McKee, who missed the past two games with a leg injury, was listed as "probable" for Saturday's game by head coach David Shaw. But it was pretty clear from Shaw's words that McKee is expected to start against the Cardinal.
There was not a shred of uncertainty regarding Garbers, who will start Saturday after having to sit out the 10-3 loss to Arizona on November 6 because he had tested positive for COVID-19. Garbers was one of 24 Cal players who missed the Arizona game because of positive COVID tests, but nearly all of them are available to practice this week and will play on Saturday.
The Bears had their Nov. 13 game against USC postponed until Dec. 4 because of continued player absences from positive tests. But this Saturday's game is on as scheduled, and Cal's depth chart this week looks pretty much like it did in the days before the COVID issues. However, starting offensive linemen Will Craig and McCade Mettauer will not be available for Saturday's game.
Among the other Cal starters and key players who missed the Arizona game along with Garbers were defensive end Luc Bequette, wide receiver Nikko Remigio, inside linebacker Trey Paster, place-kicker Dario Longhetto, offensive linemen Ben Coleman and Matthew Cindric, linebacker Femi Oladejo, wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter, defensive back Collin Gamble, and backup quarterback Zach Johnson.
All of them are back this week.
It's noteworthy that Nate Rutchena is listed as a starting inside linebacker along with Muelu Iosefa this week. Outside linebacker Kuony Deng remains sidelined.
Stanford also is likely to have some other key players back, most notably cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly, linebacker Ricky Miezan, and tight end Tucker Fisk, all of whom missed the Cardinal's 35-14 loss to Oregon State this past Saturday.
However, Cardinal wide receiver Elijah Higgins is questionable for the game, and offensive lineman Branson Bragg is out for the rest of the season.
David Shaw's Tuesday press conference:
But the most important players are Garbers, who leads the Pac-12 in total offense, and McKee, who engineered the Cardinal's victory over Oregon.
Without Garbers, Cal scored a season-low three points and managed just nine first downs and 122 total yards of offense as Arizona ended its 20-game losing streak.
Without McKee, Stanford produced only 94 passing yards and was routed by Oregon State for the Cardinal's fifth straight loss since its victory over Oregon. Stanford freshman quarterback Ari Patu, who is the brother of Cal linebacker Orin Patu, got his first college start in the game against Oregon State, but he will not be available for Saturday's game against Cal because of an injury sustained against the Beavers.
Shaw said there will be no restrictions to Tanner or the offensive playbook with Tanner at quarterback.
"If he's back and ready to go, he understands this offense extremely well, so we want to make sure he's got the full compliment," Shaw said."So no trimming the playbook. It's Big Game week, we've got to come out a try to figure out how to win the game."
Stanford has no chance to earn a postseason berth, while Cal needs to win all three of its remaining games -- against Stanford, UCLA and USC -- to get a bowl berth.
Cover photo of Chase Garbers by Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
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