Stanford has to make the trip across the San Francisco Bay, but the Cardinal appear to have Cal right where they want it when the rivals contest the 125th Big Game on Saturday in Berkeley, Calif.
The battle to avoid last place in the Pacific-12 Conference will pit a Stanford squad (3-7, 1-7) attempting to end a three-game losing streak and avenge last season’s 41-11 home drubbing against a Cal team (3-7, 1-6) that responded to a sixth consecutive defeat last weekend by firing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Both head coaches made it clear this week: You can throw out the records, which include not only the one-win conference seasons this year but also the fact that the road team has won the past four Big Games.
“The Big Game. That’s the message,” Stanford coach David Shaw said of his plan to fire up a team coming off a 42-7 shellacking at Utah. “The Axe is about the seniors and the tradition of holding that thing and taking pictures with it. We’re trying to get that Axe for the seniors. That’s the focus.”
Cal made a similarly disastrous trip last week, falling 38-10 at Oregon State. Curiously, Cal coach Justin Wilcox responded by firing Musgrave, whose offense (22.5 points per game) had far outperformed the Wilcox-influenced defense (37.3) over the past four weeks.
With his own job possibly on the line, Wilcox had a “win one for the alumni” speech prepared for his players.
“We recognize the importance of the Big Game to the university and our alumni and our student body,” Wilcox said. “We need to make the most out of (the) opportunity.”
While Cal introduces transfer quarterback Jack Plummer to the rivalry, Stanford junior Tanner McKee will get his second crack at being a Big Game starter.
He watched as a freshman when Stanford bussed out of Berkeley with The Axe in its possession following a 24-23 win in 2020, then contributed two interceptions to the Cardinal’s demise in last year’s 41-11 debacle at home.
McKee and Plummer have similar stats with the season winding down. McKee has thrown for 2,363 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while Plummer has logged 2,521 passing yards, 16 scores and seven picks.
–Field Level Media