Football: News and notes from the Big Game Luncheon

The Big Game Luncheon took place Monday at Gordon Biersch Brewery in San Francisco, and it wasn’t surprising that Cal coach Jeff Tedford and Stanford coach David Shaw both went to great lengths heaping praise on the opposing team. Here’s a few noteworthy items from the event:

–Tedford on his assessment of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck: “He does it all. He’s very smart, competitive, very physical. He’s accurate throwing the football and has a great understanding of what they’re doing, so I think he’s arguably the best quarterback in the nation. And I think he’s one of the top guys that’s ever played in this conference.”

But Tedford said Stanford’s balance on offense is what makes them so dangerous. “We haven’t played a team like this yet that lines up and runs the ball downhill like they do.”
You can bet Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is working overtime this week looking for ways to pressure Luck. Teams have been able to throw Luck off his game a bit by putting heat on him. And the Bears have to find a way to do that without getting burned in the running game.

–Shaw is very impressed with Cal sophomore receiver Keenan Allen, who is one of 10 semifinalists for this year’s Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s best receiver. “Not enough people are talking about him, but he’s having a dominant year,” Shaw said. “He’s a guy that if you don’t pay attention to him, he’ll hurt you and hurt you bad. … Much like (USC’s) Robert Woods, there are certain things he does that you can’t defense.”

I don’t expect Cal’s running game to buzz through Stanford’s defense the way it did against Washington State and Oregon State, so Zach Maynard will have to complete a few passes to keep the chains moving. And you figure the Cardinal will be keying on Allen during obvious passing downs. If I had to pick a single player who could be a game-changer for the Bears on Saturday, I’d go with Marvin Jones. Maynard has to look for him (and get him the ball), and Jones has to make some things happen to take the focus off Allen. No doubt Jones would like to make noise in his final Big Game.

Who’s your “game-changer” prediction for Cal?

–Stat to remember: Cal is 13-18 against nationally ranked teams since Tedford took over as coach in 2002. Stanford enters the 114th Big Game ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press poll.

More Big Game coverage in tomorrow’s paper …

Joe Stiglich