Wednesday, November 18, 2009

San Jose Mercury: Stanford aching to get back The Axe

Cal has something Stanford wants — The Axe.  The Bears' rally committee will guard it while the Cardinal and Bears vie in the 112th Big Game at Stanford Stadium on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. No. 14 Stanford (7-3, 6-2 Pac-10) is a touchdown favorite, the first time it has been favored over the Bears (7-3, 4-3 Pac-10) since 2001. Stanford, which has an outside shot to land in the Rose Bowl, leads the all-time series 55-45-11.  "We have our hands full and have a great challenge with this Cal team," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "They have an identity on both sides of the ball. Their special teams are very impressive to watch. Cal has the best defensive front we have faced all year."

The Bears have a highly touted defensive end in Tyson Alualu (6-3, 295 pounds), who leads the team in sacks with six.  "Alualu is the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10," Harbaugh said. "They have great linebackers. They put pressure on in so many different ways." The Cardinal has been on a major roll with back-to-back wins over then No. 7 Oregon 51-42, followed by a second-half thrashing of then No. 11 USC 55-21. The 55 points were the most scored against the Trojans in their storied history.

"Stanford is the hottest team in the country right now," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "It's unbelievably impressive what they have done. They play so physical. Their offensive line is the best offensive line in the conference. They have physical tight ends. What Stanford has done is no fluke. There is nothing flukish about those games. Those were dominating performances. It was probably the most impressive I've seen — what they did against Oregon and USC."

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