Big Game Postmortem and Other College Football Musings

After nine straight losses in the iconic series, Cal finally got over the hump and beat Stanford 24-20 in the Big Game. To make the victory even sweeter, it took place on the Cardinal's home field in Palo Alto. To make it sweeter still, it qualified the Bears for post-season play and ended Stanford's bowl hopes.

Familiar Script: The same two issues that have plagued Stanford all year ultimately spelled doom in the Big Game—lack of a running game on offense and lack of a pass rush on defense.

The Cardinal gained only 61 yards on the ground against the Bears and remain in the bottom 10 of NCAA rankings in rushing yardage. Cameron Scarlett was stuffed on a fourth-and-one on the final drive, a sight that has become very familiar to Stanford fans.

On the other side of the ball, Cal QB Chase Garbers had plenty of time for most of the game. On the rare occasions when he was pressured, he often escaped…like on the game-winning touchdown scramble.

Folks in the national media—and in the Stanford family—are wondering whether 2019 is an aberration or if the program is starting to slip after 10 straight winning seasons and bowl appearances.

If Only: Garbers' clutch performance was another reminder of what might have been for the Bears. While a win over UCLA this weekend will give them a very respectable 7-5 record, they lost four of the five games he missed and definitely would’ve won a few more if he'd stayed healthy.

Ducks Drown: Oregon's playoff hopes were dashed in a 31-28 loss to Arizona State. The Ducks were thoroughly outplayed most of the night and trailed 24-7 at one point.

Quarterback Justin Herbert had an awful three-and-a-half quarters marked by horrible passes, bad body language, and a tentativeness that no doubt concerned the pro scouts in attendance. Oregon rallied to make it interesting, but inexplicably allowed an 81-yard bomb in the closing minutes that allowed ASU to hold on.

And Sun Devils freshman Jayden Daniels was clearly the best quarterback on the field.

Quick Question: Has Alabama beaten anybody this year?

Huskies Neutered: It's time to ask another question, what's happened to Washington? After an embarrassing 20-16 loss to Colorado yesterday, Chris Petersen's team is 6-5, with the Apple Cup against WSU remaining.

The Huskies, who were in the playoff just three years ago, have always had trouble winning big games. Now they're having trouble winning, period. Prior to yesterday's upset in Boulder, they lost to Cal in Seattle, were demolished by Stanford in Palo Alto, and trimmed by both Oregon and Utah.

More Kedon Slovis: USC freshman Kedon Slovis passed for a school record 515 yards against UCLA. That gives him over 1350 yards and 14 TDs in his last three games.

Slovis is going to be a superstar. How'd you like to be the new coach and inherit a great quarterback for your first two or three years on the job?

Bruin’s Demise: How far UCLA has fallen. With Saturday's loss to USC, the Bruins (now 4-7) have suffered through four straight losing seasons for first time since 1921-24.

So far, as predicted in this space, Chip Kelly's much ballyhooed return to college coaching has been a complete bust.

Utah Playoff Scenario: With Oregon now out of the playoff, the Pac-12's hopes rest with Utah. The Utes need to beat Colorado in their final game (not a sure thing after the Buffs upset Washington Saturday), beat Oregon in the conference championship game, and hope LSU beats Georgia in the SEC champ game.

Redbox Dreams: The folks at the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, my old stomping grounds, are licking their chops over the very real possibility of having the Cal Bears in the game. The last time that happened, back in 2008 when the game was known as the Emerald Bowl, a Cal-Miami matchup sold out AT&T Park and set attendance records that still stand.

49ers' Fantasy: While we’re on the subject of dreams that aren’t so unrealistic, how about the 49ers in the Super Bowl? Coach Kyle Shanahan’s team looked every bit the part of a Super Bowl contender on Sunday against Green Bay. Big test this week against the Baltimore Ravens, who are beginning to look like the best team in the NFL.

Happy Thanksgiving!! Here’s wishing you all a glorious turkey day and a weekend of fantastic football.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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