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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Prediction: Stanford vs. Cal

By Kevin Gemmell

Predicting the Big Game, yikes. Looking at the historical wackiness this game has provided through the years, it's pretty clear this contest hasn't always gone as scripted. And what to make of Cal? Pretty inconsistent. They've looked really good at times and really sloppy others. So it's hard to make predictions when you don't know which team is going to show up. But I have a feeling I know which Stanford team shows up. And that's why the Cardinal will get back on track this week.

Prediction: Stanford 35, Cal 17

Overall: 9-1

Why they'll win: The pressure is off -- at least the national pressure. Cal-Stanford might be massive news in the Bay Area, but east of Las Vegas, this game doesn't have the same hype that last week's Stanford-Oregon game did. The Cardinal will get back to basics -- power running, pro-style passing trees and effective use of the play-action. When the Cardinal do what they do best, there are few teams in the country that can stop them. With some lofty goals that still can be accomplished, the Cardinal aren't going to let this one slip away. Plus Andrew Luck has only dropped consecutive games once in his career and that was two seasons ago when he was a first-year starter. Can't see him dropping his final Big Game -- at home, no less -- on Saturday.

In the spotlight: Stanford safety Delano Howell is expected to return. He missed three games leading up to Oregon, and then missed the final two and a half quarters after re-injuring his hand after forcing a fumble. He's the best tackler in the secondary -- maybe the on the whole team -- and his presence will be needed with the talented Cal receiving duo of Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones running routes. Howell is a difference-maker.

Out on a limb: One of the pups will step up -- be it Ty Montgomery, Devon Carrington, A.J. Tarpley or Jordan Richards. One of the younger players will do something that is a game-changer. Could be an interception in the secondary or a drive-killing sack by Tarpley. Montgomery might have a touchdown catch of 50-plus yards. One of Stanford's young guns will impact the outcome of this game. As always, that's just me going out on a limb...