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College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Cal vs. Stanford: Back the Golden Bears’ Running Game

College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Cal vs. Stanford: Back the Golden Bears’ Running Game article feature image

Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Cal Golden Bears.

  • Stanford hosts California in rivalry game.
  • The Golden Bears scored only three points last game against Arizona, a game they lost.
  • Matt Wispe breaks down the matchup and offers up his best bet.

Cal vs. Stanford Odds

Saturday, Nov. 20
7 p.m. ET
Pac-12 Network
Cal Odds
-110o / -110u
Stanford Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Stanford hosts Cal in the Big Game rivalry matchup on Saturday. Both teams have fallen short of expectations, but a win over their rival can change the overall outlook of a season.

Cal enters this game following a canceled game with USC due to COVID-19 issues. It owns a 3-6 record with two wins in conference play and sits 5-4 against the spread while going under the total in five games.

Stanford enters this game with a 3-7 record with two conference wins. It’s 3-7 against the spread and has gone under the total in six games.

California Golden Bears

Golden Bears Offense

The nicest way to describe Cal’s offense is methodical. The Golden Bears average 27.3 seconds per play and 67 offensive plays per game to go along with a 43.5% Success Rate and 3.94 points per drive. They’re scoring 22.9 points per game and averaging 5.8 yards per play.

Chase Garbers is expected to be available following a COVID-related absence against Arizona two weeks ago. He’s completing 63.8% of his passes for an average of 7.4 yards per attempt. He’s thrown for 14 touchdowns and five interceptions, as Cal has a 39.2% Passing Success Rate, and it’s averaged 3.55 20+ yard passes per game.

Cal is averaging 160.6 rushing yards per game at an average of 4.8 yards per rush.

Damien Moore and Christopher Brooks have largely handled the workload in the backfield, and both are averaging more than 4.5 yards per attempt.

As a team, the Bears have a 49.1% Rushing Success Rate, and a big part of their success is along the offensive line. Their line is generating 3.67 Line Yards per attempt and has allowed only a 10.9% Stuff Rate.

Golden Bears Defense

Cal is allowing 22.2 points per game and 5.5 yards per play. It allows a 41.9% Success Rate and 3.26 points per opportunity.

One issue the Golden Bears had is creating Havoc on just 16.4% of plays.

Cal is allowing 232.4 passing yards per game at an average of 6.95 yards per attempt. It allows a 40.1% Passing Success Rate and gives up over three passes over 20 yards per game. The defense has also broken up 35 passes and forced 11 interceptions.

The Golden Bears allow 134.6 rushing yards per game and 4.0 yards per attempt. They allow a 44.9% Rushing Success Rate with their struggles being along the defensive line. They’ve forced just a 13.8% Stuff Rate and have allowed opponents to create 3.3 Line Yards per attempt.

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Stanford Cardinal

Cardinal Offense

Stanford is scoring just 22 points per game and averaging 5.4 yards per play.  The Cardinal own a 39% Success Rate and score 3.27 points per opportunity.

Stanford is expected to have starting quarterback Tanner McKee back for this game, which should have a dramatic impact on its passing attack.  McKee is completing 64.8% of his passes for an average of 7.8 yards per attempt. As a team, Stanford averages 217.1 passing yards per game and boasts a Passing Success Rate of 41.8%.

Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat have split the workload in the Stanford backfield. Each has compiled over 300 rushing yards, however, Peat has done so with a 5.5 yard per carry average, while Jones has averaged only 3.6.

As a team, Stanford has a 35.6% Rushing Success Rate. The offensive line is at the center of its struggles, as it’s generating only 2.7 Line Yards per attempt and has allowed a 20.2% Stuff Rate.

Cardinal Defense

Stanford’s defense has struggled mightily this year.

It gives up 30.3 points per game and 6.2 yards per play while allowing a 48.8% Success Rate and an average of 3.75 points per opportunity.

One point of concern for this defense is Havoc, which has been generated on only 12.1% of plays.

Stanford is allowing 196.2 passing yards per game at an average of 7.1 yards per attempt. It’s allowing a 40.7% Passing Success Rate and over two passes over 20 yards per game. The Cardinal have picked off only four passes through 11 weeks.

One reason why Stanford’s defense hasn’t let up a ton through the air is because of its struggles against the run. The Cardinal allow 5.6 yards per rush and 233 rushing yards per game. They also give up a 54.5% Rushing Success Rate.

The defensive line is their biggest weakness, as they’ve allowed opposing offenses to generate 3.64 Line Yards per attempt and have only forced a 13.3% Stuff Rate.

Cal vs. Stanford Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Cal and Stanford match up statistically:

Cal Offense vs. Stanford Defense
Rush Success45127
Line Yards2126
Pass Success8560
Pass Blocking**5682
Big Play7257
Finishing Drives6458
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Stanford Offense vs. Cal Defense
Rush Success10086
Line Yards120100
Pass Success8055
Pass Blocking**10161
Big Play8374
Finishing Drives10829
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling10687
Middle 89396
SP+ Special Teams2534
Plays per Minute88118
Rush Rate50.3% (95)47.7% (112)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

At face value, Cal appears to have a fairly large edge across the board. But with McKee missing Stanford’s last two games, it’s safe to assume that their passing disadvantages could be closer than they appear.

However, the biggest advantage is going to be Cal’s rushing attack against Stanford’s defense.

Cal vs. Stanford Betting Pick

Sharps have made their pick clear in this matchup, as the line has moved significantly from its open at Cal -5 down to -1.5.  This movement has happened in spite of the fact that 68% of bets and 79% of the money has come in on Cal.

However, it’s the running game for Cal that’s the biggest reason I’m backing the Golden Bears in the battle for the Stanford Axe. Stanford’s struggles against the run will keep Cal on the field for long drives and allow it to bleed the clock late and win the end-of-game staredown if it holds a single-score lead.

I’d also make a small play on the under, as both teams have proven to struggle on the offensive side of the ball.

Pick: Cal -1.5 (Play to -4)

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