Stanford vs. California NCAAF Week 12 Top Picks: Getting the Band Back Together in the Big Game

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Mudia Reuben #0 of the Stanford Cardinal rushes the ball against the Utah Utes. Chris Gardner/ Getty Images/AFP.

The safest bet in the 125th edition of The Big Game this weekend is to take the “Over” on the number of times you’ll see grainy old video of the Stanford band coming onto the field too early back in 1982.

It’s the 40th anniversary of college football’s most dramatic ending, when Cal pulled off a multi-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown, running over Stanford band members as they crossed the goal line. Now known simply as The Play, it’s one of the sport’s most enduring images.

Now, the 2 Bay Area rivals get together again in a game that will help salvage a disappointing season for the winner. Both Stanford and Cal enter this year’s Big Game already out of bowl consideration with twin 3-7 records.

Cal is 1-6 in the Pac-12, while Stanford is 1-7. The Cardinal has lost 3 straight games, while the Golden Bears have lost their last 6. The loser of the game will likely battle 1-6 Colorado for last place in the conference.

Let’s see what the NCAAF odds tell us at the best sportsbooks.

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Stanford Cardinal vs. California Golden Bears

Saturday, November 19, 2022 – 05:30 PM EST at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium

Youth Movement

While Stanford’s record has been disappointing, the Cardinal have had their moments this season. Stanford upset Notre Dame in South Bend, winning 16-14 on Oct. 15. Also, all 7 of Stanford’s conference losses have come to teams that are now bowl-eligible, and 5 were to ranked teams.

In addition to a daunting schedule, Stanford has suffered from injuries that have forced the Cardinal to go deep into the depth chart. A total of 17 true freshmen have played in games this season, and 7 have already played in more than 4 games, meaning they can’t redshirt. A total of 29 players have made their college debuts for Stanford this year, and 10 different players have made their first career start.

When Mitch Leigber made his first career start at running back 2 games ago, he became the 4th different player to start at the position for Stanford this year.

The lack of a running game has plagued Stanford. The Cardinal is managing just 110 ground yards per game, half of what they’re allowing. And without a run game, the entire offense has withered. Stanford hasn’t topped 16 points in any of the last 5 games,

The best bet for Stanford is to rely on the passing game against a Cal secondary that allows 289 yards a game. The Cal pass rush has also struggled, managing just 13 on the season. That might be just what Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee needs. He’s completed less than half of his passes in 2 of the last 3 games.

Defensive Stand

Cal has had an even worse ground game than Stanford this season, managing just 97 yards per game, thanks in large part to an offensive line that has seen several starters go down to injury. The Golden Bears have had 5 different offensive line groups start games this season.

After starter Ben Coleman missed last week’s game, Cal is down to one player (Brian Driscoll) who has started every game, and no lineman has started every game at the same position.

The defense has also been shaky, and, like the offensive line, the secondary has been ravaged by injury. Two cornerbacks missed last week’s game, and Cal’s D couldn’t get off the field. Oregon State had 37 minutes of possession time and ran 22 more plays than the Golden Bears.

Like Stanford, the best bet for the Golden Bears might be to go to the air in the Big Game. Cal is passing for 264 yards per game and true freshman receiver J. Michael Sturdivant has been one of the most productive first-year receivers in football. He leads all freshmen nationwide in catches and is near the top in touchdowns and yards.

Prediction and Picks

Cal’s injury-plagued secondary could be just the thing to get Tanner McKee and the Stanford air attack on track. With your NCAAF picks in mind, look for both teams to air it out and for the battle-toughened Cardinal to get a much-needed win.

Predicted Score: Stanford 31 - California 27

NCAAF Pick: Stanford +4.5 (-108) at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review)

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Stanford +4.5 (-108)
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NCAAF Pick: Over 46 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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Over 46 (-108)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.