Stanford’s offense operated at near-peak efficiency in a rout of rival California on its way to a strong finish last season. A day shy of one year later, the Cardinal seek answers for their offensive woes and hope to become bowl-eligible on Saturday when they visit the Bears in the 117th installment of “The Big Game”. Stanford clinched a berth in the 2013 Pac-12 Championship Game when Kevin Hogan threw four of his career-high five touchdowns to Ty Montgomery in a 63-13 triumph.
While the Cardinal sport the conference’s best scoring defense by a wide margin, coach David Shaw’s squad finds itself at .500 thanks to an offense that has failed to score more than 17 points in any of its five losses this season – three of which have been decided by a field goal. Stanford looks to avoid its first three-game losing streak since the end of the 2008 season against the league’s worst scoring defense in the Golden Bears. Cal has made a four-win improvement over last year under second-year coach Sonny Dykes, although the Bears have dropped four of five since beginning the season 4-1.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Stanford -5.5.
ABOUT STANFORD (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12): The Cardinal defense has limited opponents to conference-best marks in scoring defense (16.5), yards per play (4.1), yards per rush (3.0) and yards per pass attempt (5.3), but their offense hasn’t taken advantage by going scoreless on a third of its 39 drives inside the red zone (66.7-percent conversion rate, fourth-worst in FBS). Stanford has failed to produce a 100-yard rusher in 2014 after delivering one such runner nine times last season. To that end, Remound Wright’s team-leading 396 rushing yards ranks 18th in the conference; the Cardinal have placed one rusher in the top five in that category every year since 2007.
ABOUT CALIFORNIA (5-5, 3-5): Running back Daniel Lasco, who has amassed over 100 scrimmage yards in seven of his last eight contests and scored at least once in six straight games, is 118 yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Whereas Stanford has struggled mightily inside the red zone, the Bears rank second in the conference and 15th in the country with a 90.5-percent conversion rate. Quarterback Jared Goff eclipsed Nate Longshore for fifth place on the school’s all-time list with 279 yards passing in Cal’s Nov. 13 loss to USC and only needs two touchdown passes to overtake Pat Barnes (31, 1996) for second place in that category.
1. Only 120 points separate Stanford (1,962) and Cal (1,842) in the all-time series, which the Cardinal lead 59-46-11.
2. Cal has been outscored by an average of 26.3 points during its four-game skid in this rivalry.
3. Last week marked the first time in 11 instances that Stanford has followed a loss with another one under Shaw.
PREDICTION: Stanford 34, California 24