Saturday will mark the ultimate Huge Recreation between Stanford and Cal earlier than they depart the Pac-12 for the Athletic Coast Convention. Though each have wealthy histories behind them, they every enter the matchup beneath .500 for the third yr in a row. Nevertheless, as is the case with any Huge Recreation, loads is at stake with Cal’s bowl eligibility nonetheless on the road and the Cardinal seeking to keep away from their third straight house loss to Cal, which final occurred in 1951. The Every day’s Zach Zafran spoke with Mia Wachtel, head sports activities editor on the Every day Californian, to speak about Cal’s season, the battle of their quarterback room, the way forward for this system with convention realignment and what’s to return this weekend within the 126th Huge Recreation.
This transcript has been evenly edited and condensed for readability.
The Stanford Every day (TSD): Inform me just a little bit about Cal’s season to date. How has it stacked up towards expectations?
Mia Wachtel (MW): We’re 4-6 total, 2-5 in convention play. I believe a variety of Cal followers had larger expectations as a result of we onboarded offensive coordinator Jake Spavital this previous summer time. I don’t know should you noticed the Twitter hashtag #HogsForSpav, nevertheless it was an enormous deal after we bought him as a result of he bought a few good guys from the switch portal. So I believe a variety of Cal followers had larger expectations for the season than what has occurred. We now have 4 straight losses to ranked opponents, which I believe is just a little disheartening to Cal followers as a result of we first got here out towards North Texas with a 30-point lead and received that, after which misplaced a recreation that Cal ought to have received towards Auburn.
There’s this quote, “The worst factor a Cal fan can have is hope,” and I believe that this season is outlined very nicely by that. It’s simply been just a little little bit of a curler coaster, a tumultuous journey, and I assume we’re driving the ultimate waves.
TSD: Maybe the brightest spot of this Cal group is sophomore operating again Jaydn Ott, who’s amongst Pac-12 and nationwide leaders in virtually all main dashing statistics. Are you able to inform me extra concerning the season he’s having and what it means to this group?
MW: Everyone is aware of that Ott is the standout operating again. Everyone expects him to go professional, he’s nice. He really simply broke 1000 dashing yards this previous weekend, the primary Cal participant to take action [in six years].
You’ll see in each postgame press convention, somebody talks about Ott at the least as soon as. We at all times put the ball with the particular person we belief most, and that particular person has been Ott all through the season. He actually is the lifeline of this group, and I believe that lots of people have been apprehensive that he was going to hit the switch portal, however he didn’t. And now you’ll see this each week that he’s popping out with [honors and awards]. I might be shocked if he didn’t make it to the league in a few years.
TSD: Within the quarterback room, a three-way quarterback battle headlined coaching camp till redshirt sophomore Sam Jackson V received the beginning job initially of the season. Since then we’ve seen all three command motion till not too long ago, because it appears redshirt sophomore Fernando Mendoza has earned the position. How has this quarterback carousel impacted the group this yr, and the way assured are you in Mendoza shifting ahead?
MW: It’s exactly what you mentioned. It was a carousel, and I don’t suppose that’s one thing that’s useful for any group, ever. We didn’t have our definitive quarterback till the fifth recreation of the season, which isn’t the place faculty soccer packages must be at in the event that they need to have severe competition for bowl eligibility. Now I do know that if Cal wins these subsequent two video games, they’ll have the chance to go to a bowl, however clearly it’s tough when the quarterback is the commander of the group and you haven’t any flat out commander for a lot of the season.
In my view, Fernando Mendoza is the precise alternative at quarterback. He has essentially the most correct arm. He’s the most effective resolution maker. He’s a scrambler, not pretty much as good on his ft as Sam Jackson V is, however I believe Sam Jackson V is missing in different methods. I believe Fernando is essentially the most well-rounded quarterback that we’ve in our carousel, and head coach Justin Wilcox made the precise resolution in retaining him in play. That mentioned, he will be higher with resolution making, and I believe that’s one thing that should enhance. I imply, he’s a redshirt freshman and his first ever profession begin was this season, so there’s room to enhance; and I’m positive that the offense will simply continue to grow in these subsequent couple of years as he turns into a extra developed quarterback.
TSD: On the opposite aspect of the ball, Cal’s protection is giving up essentially the most factors per recreation within the Pac-12. What has to alter for this unit getting into Huge Recreation?
MW: We took heavy hits this season when it comes to our line of defense. Matthew Cindric, the Cal group captain and a sixth-year senior, was taken out of the season early due to a bicep tear. He had a bicep tear final season as nicely, however this time it was the opposite bicep. His loss was massively detrimental to the protection, particularly as a result of Cal’s protection hasn’t been significantly good. We do have some brilliant spots in guys like Kaleb Elarms-Orr, who was main the Pac-12 in tackles a pair weeks in the past. We now have sturdy guys on the group, I believe that they’re simply not being put collectively. That’s what we’ll want to alter heading into Huge Recreation.