The surest sign that the presumptuously named Big Game is finally a big game arrived Monday with the announcement that Tiger Woods will serve as Stanford's honorary captain Saturday when Cal makes the bus trip across the bay. Who knew Tiger was as good a front-runner off the golf course as he is on it?
But after the last two weeks, with demolitions of Oregon and USC, maybe Woods is a fitting flag-bearer. The Cardinal are rolling into late November with the same sort of fist-pumping swagger that he carries with him into the back nine on Sunday afternoons. The Cardinal have been riding the punishing running of tailback Toby Gerhart, who has thrust himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation, and the cocksureness of their coach, Capt. Hubris himself, Jim Harbaugh.
If it wasn't a statement enough to hang 55 points on the Trojans — more than anyone had ever scored against them — Harbaugh wanted to enhance it by attempting a late 2-point conversion. (Harbaugh and USC coach Pete Carroll have a history — Harbaugh saying two years ago that Carroll would leave for the NFL after the season; and their dueling timeouts at the end of last year's 45-23 Trojans' victory.)
These eyebrow-raising victories have brought an element of seriousness to the Big Game that hasn't existed in a while. This is the first time since 2001 that both teams will be bowl-eligible and it's the first time since 1991 that Stanford (7-3, 6-2) and Cal (7-3, 4-3) enter the game at the seven-win plateau.