The California Golden Bears have won two games in a row and currently sit at 6-4. With last weeks victory over the Oregon State Beavers it allowed for the Bears to become bowl eligible, which is a far cry from what the team looked like just two weeks ago. Those two wins have given the Bears a new life and a chance for moving up in the Pac-12 standings and allows the Bears the opportunity for participation in a better bowl game.
Tonight’s game is the first chance the Bears have to improve in the standings as well as improve on which bowl game the team will be participating in. The Bears will be facing the no.8 Stanford Cardinal and in order to win will need to pull of a huge upset over the Cardinal and it could happen.
One key to an upset victory for the Bears will be the play of quarterback Zach Maynard who has been up and down all year long. Jeff Tedford and offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik will need to allow Maynard to use his legs more and run the football. Play calls for quick passes that don’t necessarily go for a huge chunk of yardages will be important as well so Maynard can get into a rhythm and eventually burn the Cardinal secondary deep. Even if the plays get three or four yards, it allows for the Bears to stay out of third and long situations, which have been a problem for the Bears.
To go along with the first key Michalzik will need to have Maynard spread the ball out and use the offense weapons available to him such as Keenan Allen, Marvin Jones, Michael Calvin, Anthony Miller, Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson. By spreading the ball around it keeps the Cardinal defense honest.
Offensively though the most important key will be running the football with Sofele who is coming off a career game against the Beavers. If the Bears can find running the football successful it will allow for the offense of the Bears to win the time of possession battle and also keep the Cardinal’s offense off the field.
On the defensive side one of the keys will be to stop the Cardinal from running the football with Stepfan Taylor. The Bears do rank 29th in defending the run, though when the Bears faced the Oregon Ducks did struggle to stop LaMichael James and by limiting Taylor on the first and second down runs it will mean third and long situations for the Cardinal.
With the Bears putting the Cardinal in long situations the key for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will be to come up with ways to get pressure on Andrew Luck. That pressure will allow for the defense of the Bears get off of the field. If the Bears are unable to get pressure on Luck he has the ability to pick the secondary apart.
For the Bears to be competitive or pull off the upset the team needs to get Maynard going with his arm and his leg, Sofele running the football with success to control the clock, the defense to stop the run to put the Cardinal in third and long situations and for the Bears to put pressure on Luck.
Those are the five keys for the Bears to pull off the upset victory, improve their record in the Pac-12 standings and move up into better bowl position.