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Big Game 2011: Can The Cal Running Game Keep Andrew Luck Off The Field?

The California Golden Bears have struggled to try balancing the offense all season. The Cal offensive line has improved as the season has gone on, but struggled in pass protecting the quarterback.  Zach Maynard has been decent at times and horrid at others, and was directly responsible for two defeats against the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins when he coughed up multiple turnovers.

But in Cal's last two victories against Oregon State and Washington State, the Bears turned to the ground game and wiped the mat with their opponents. Cal used a platoon of Isi Sofele, C.J. Anderson and occasional doses of Mike Manuel, Will Kapp, Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson and Brendan Bigelow, and amassed nearly 300 yards of rushing on each occasion. The run blocking has improved game-by-game, which has bode well for the Cal rush attack.

While Cal can't be expected to do the same this Saturday against a pretty solid Stanford Cardinal front, anywhere from 150-200 yards from Sofele and Anderson could help open up the passing game, and unleash potent weapons like Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones on the outside and Anthony Miller inside. Ball control could be critical (just like in Cal's 2009 upset of Stanford) in keeping Andrew Luck from doing the deadly damage needed to beat up the Cal defense.

Cal is not going to have an easy time trying to exploit Stanford's speed like Oregon did, but they might need to use some of the same tricks and stay committed to the ground to notch the win.

To discuss Cal football, check out the California Golden Blogs. To discuss Stanford football, check Rule of Tree.