The superlatives were flowing Monday at the annual Big Game luncheon, and most of them were about Stanford.
The Cardinal, of course, come into the Big Game on a roll, scoring 50+ points against both Oregon and USC and skyrocketing to No. 14 in the Associated Press top 25. This will be the first time in years Stanford is the favorite in the Big Game.
“They’re probably the hottest team in the country right now,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “It’s unbelievably impressive what they’ve done. Those games are no fluke. They were dominanting performances. We have our hands full, without a doubt.”
Tedford said Stanford running back Toby Gerhart should be considered for the Heisman. He also said Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck “is the most underrated player in the country.”
“You don’t hear a lot about him,” Tedford said. “We’ve had a chance to watch a lot of tape on him this year and he is unbelievably poised and confident. He’s accurate as a passer. He has great escape dimension. He understand what he’s looking for, does a great job with the football. He’s one of the most impressive quarterbacks i’ve seen this year.”
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh chimed in with his praise of Cal, calling Tyson Alualu the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10 and saying the Bears have the best defensive line in the conference.
As I posted earlier, Jahvid Best is definitely out for this game. Here’s more on it from my notebook that already has been posted on our website. Tedford was very definitive when asked about Best, saying there was “no chance” he will play against Stanford. Tedford went on to say they still have not had a single conversation about when he might possibly return.
It’s not so much the concussion that is bothering Best at this point, but his back. The good news for Best and the Bears is Cal has a bye week after the Big Game, giving Best an extra week to heal. But there’s no guarantee Best will even return then, or even this season. There is just a lot of uncertainty right now about the star running back.
Tedford also talked briefly about the running back workload. Generally, Tedford has always had his backups see significant playing time, but Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson only got one carry Saturday night while starter Shane Vereen had 30. Tedford said that those reps are simply based on the flow of the game. Running backs coach Ron Gould is in charge of substitutions, and he felt Vereen was doing OK with the heavy workload. Considering Vereen looked pretty fresh on his 61-yard touchdown run at the end of the game, it’s hard to argue with that.
–Left tackle Mike Tepper and linebacker Devin Bishop also appeared at the press luncheon, and I’ll have their transcriptions tomorrow. One highlight from their interviews came from Tepper, who said the loss to Stanford in 2007 is worse than the fact that he’s gone 0-6 against USC in his career.
“That was probably one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had at Cal,” Tepper said. “Going 0-6 against SC is pretty bad, but losing The Axe in ’07 was the worst feeling I ever had in my life. It tears you apart. It tears the community apart. It means a lot to us.”