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Stanford vs. California Odds & Picks: Bet Cardinal to Cover in The Big Game on College Football Friday

Stanford vs. California Odds & Picks: Bet Cardinal to Cover in The Big Game on College Football Friday article feature image

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images. Pictured: Davis Mills.

  • Stanford and Cal meet in the 123rd Big Game for the first time ever on a Friday.
  • The Cardinal will rely on QB Davis Mills, while Cal hopes its offense can get going behind Chase Garbers.
  • Roberto Arguello breaks down the rivalry game and explains how to bet Stanford below.

Stanford vs. California Odds

Stanford Odds +1.5 [BET NOW]
California Odds -1.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -102/-118 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 52.5 [BET NOW]
Time 4:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday evening and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today.

The Stanford Cardinal travel across the bay to face the California Golden Bears in the 123rd Big Game and the first-ever Friday edition. Both teams are winless for the first time in the rivalry’s history and badly need a win.

California beat Stanford, 24-20, last year to snap a nine-game losing streak to the Cardinal. Stanford suffered its first losing season in 11 years in 2019 (4-8) and needs a win this week to have any chance of salvaging a winning record.

Cal won eight games in 2019 and was picked to be a contender in the Pac-12 this season, but it, too, is just hoping for a bowl appearance after a disappointing 0-2 start.

In the last four battles for the Stanford Axe, the road team has covered the spread. Let’s dig in to find out why this trend will continue and how Stanford will reclaim its trophy.

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Stanford Cardinal

If Stanford wins, it will need a big game from senior quarterback Davis Mills. Mills missed Game 1 due to a false positive COVID-19 test and was cleared just a day before Stanford’s second game against Colorado. Mills missed some throws early in that game as the Cardinal settled for too many field goals before scoring three touchdowns on their final four possessions. But it was too little too late, and Colorado won, 25-32.

With Mills back and having practiced for the last two weeks leading up to this one, I expect he and the Stanford offense to look much sharper. This will be the first game in which Stanford has its full top four receivers (Simi Fehoko, Connor Wedington, Michael Wilson and Osiris St. Brown) available. Although Cal has impressive starting cornerbacks on the outside, Stanford will be able to find mismatches with all but Wedington standing 6-foot-2 or taller.

The Stanford offensive line looked impressive running the football at Oregon in its first game but disappointed running the football against Colorado before Stanford shifted to a pass-heavy attack in the second half after falling behind by multiple scores. After losing starting guard Branson Bragg to injury against Colorado, he appears likely to start Friday after having a week off when Stanford’s game against Washington State was canceled.

Defensively, Stanford has struggled to stop the run, especially against running quarterbacks. Stanford has allowed its opponents to rush for 5.2 yards per carry and a total of 446 rushing yards through two weeks. However, Cal’s rushing offense isn’t as prolific as Oregon or Colorado’s, and quarterback Chase Garbers isn’t as explosive of an athlete as the other dual-threat quarterbacks the Cardinal have faced.

California Golden Bears

Cal returned nearly its entire two-deep on offense from last season and was expected to contend for a Pac-12 title in 2020. However, a sluggish Sunday showing against UCLA and a myriad of starters being held out against Oregon State (including three starting offensive linemen) have led to a disappointing 0-2 start.

One of the biggest surprises for Cal is its inability to run the football. The Golden Bears averaged just 1.9 yards per carry against the Bruins and 3.3 yards per carry against the Beavers. Cal had three starting offensive linemen held out of the Oregon State game due to COVID-19 protocols, and its starting center, Michael Saffell, went down with an injury during the game. On Tuesday, Cal coach Justin Wilcox noted that he doesn’t expect any of his three starters who missed last week to be available this week, and he is hopeful that Saffell can return.

Garbers had a poor first game but looked much more like himself in Cal’s second game against Oregon State. If Cal wants to win the Big Game this year, Garbers and his receivers will need to have an impressive performance.

Receiver Nikko Remigio, who broke free with a career-high nine receptions and 157 receiving yards in the Big Game last year, has been quiet in 2020 with just two receptions for seven yards. As a returner, he had a touchdown and another return inside the 5-yard line called back against Oregon State after two costly holding penalties. Expect Cal to get him more involved this week. Receivers Makai Polk and Kekoa Crawford have flashed big-play ability on the outside and will need to be consistent against Stanford.

As Cal’s offense looks to get on track, so will its defense. The Golden Bears have allowed 449 rush yards through two games and 5.3 yards per carry. Cal has had notable losses up the middle from last season’s impressive defense, as star linebacker Evan Weaver and safeties Jaylinn Hawkins and Ashtyn Davis were all selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Cal also lost projected starting nose tackle Aaron Maldonado to injury before the season, while senior defensive end/outside linebacker Tevin Paul opted out and three-year starter at defensive end Luc Bequette transferred to Boston College when the Pac-12 initially canceled its season.

Nose tackle Stanley McKenzie, who missed Cal’s first two games, could return against Stanford. This would be a big boost for the Cal defense because it would move Brett Johnson, who has started at nose tackle, back to his natural spot at defensive end.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Cal’s lack of a consistent pass rush and uncertainty on the offensive line sets Stanford up for a win.

Although Stanford hasn’t run the ball as well as it would like, the offensive line has impressed in pass protection, having allowed just one sack through two games. The Cardinal figure to match up well against a Cal defensive line that has had to move players around and has just one sack on opposing offenses in two games. Furthermore, key losses up the middle in the Cal defense from last season haven’t been replaced, and I expect Mills and Stanford to take advantage of errors there.

Cal is likely to be without three starters on the offensive line due to COVID-19 protocols and another starter will be a game-time decision. This doesn’t bode well for the Bears to exploit a Stanford defensive line that has struggled to stop the run, especially against dual-threat quarterbacks. Garbers isn’t as athletic as the other quarterbacks Stanford has faced, and I like the Cardinal’s chances of containing the Cal offense, which has scored just 17 points in its last six quarters.

I like Stanford to win on the moneyline at -103 with value down to -130. I expect the 123rd Big Game to be a relatively low-scoring game decided by seven points or fewer. I also love the value of a teaser play here with Stanford plus the points and the under, teasing Stanford from +1.5 to +7.5 and the under 52.5 to under 58.5 at -110 and would play it down to -130.

Picks: Stanford moneyline -103 (down to -130) | Teaser: Stanford +7.5 and Under 58.5 (down to -130)

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