Nov. 16, 2008
California returns home to Memorial Stadium for the first time in three weeks to host Stanford in the 111th edition of the Big Game. The contest kicks off at 12:30 p.m. and will be televised in Northern California by ABC (locally on KGO TV, Channel 7). It is also available nationwide through ESPN's GamePlan package.
The Cal-Stanford rivalry ties for the ninth longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision, with the Cardinal owning 55-44-11 edge. Cal, though, has won five of six under head coach Jeff Tedford. In fact, the Bears are 3-0 with Tedford vs. the Cardinal in Berkeley and can record their first four-game winning streak at home since taking five in a row over Stanford from 1952-60.
At 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-10, Cal also needs just one more victory to post its seventh win of the year for the seventh season in a row - something that has never before happened in the history of Golden Bear football. The only other six-game streak occurred from 1947-52.
The strength of Cal's 2008 squad lies in its defense, which ranks 30th in the NCAA in total defense, allowing 315.0 ypg - a 63.8 ypg improvement over last year. The Bears are also fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense (97.26 opponent passer rating), tied for second in the country with 18 interceptions and No. 1 in the Pac-10 in turnover margin (+0.70 per game).
Junior cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson picked off his team-leading fourth pass of the year at Oregon State last week, a total that matches Trevin Wade of Arizona atop the league standings. In addition, sophomore cornerback Darian Hagan paces in the conference in passes defensed (1.60 per game), with Thompson right behind (1.50 per game) and freshman Sean Cattouse in eighth place (1.00 per game).
In the Bears' 3-4 alignment, linebackers hold down four of the top five spots on the tackle list. Sophomore Mike Mohamed, although primarily a reserve, has 71 stops, with senior Anthony Felder having 67 and senior Zack Follett 64. Follett's total includes 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 quarterback sacks, plus three force fumbles - all team highs.
Offensively, Cal features one of the most explosive players in the country in sophomore tailback Jahvid Best, who averages 6.5 yards per carry and needs just 118 yards to reach 1,000 for the season to become the Bears' seventh 1,000-yard rusher in the last seven years. His 98.0 per-game average is second in the Pac-10 and 21st in the country.
Best can also showcase his skills on kickoff returns, where he averages 29.08 ypr, including a 51-yarder on the opening kickoff at Oregon State last week that set up the Cal's first touchdown. It was his first action returning kicks since he dislocated his left elbow in the Sept. 27 Colorado State game.
Sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley has a better than 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (11-5), and junior wideout Nyan Boateng has emerged as the Bears' top receiver, now with 25 catches for 403 yards and five scores.
Up front, senior center Alex Mack has already earned several midseason All-America nods, is a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and was a semifinalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award. A National Football Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship recipient, he is a finalist for the Draddy Award, given for achievement in academics and athletics.