The 113th edition of the Big Game isn't so much a showdown with its bitter rival but a form of therapy for Cal.
The Bears, coming off one of their most excruciating losses in recent memory, need something to divert their attention to the future. Nothing like the prospect of retaining The Axe to help Cal move on from Saturday's 15-13 loss to No. 1 Oregon.
"It's the Big Game. There's definitely a lot of excitement, a lot of energy," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "I don't think guys are going to have too much of a problem putting this one behind us."
The Bears defense played the game of a lifetime in shutting down the Ducks' potent attack, but Cal's offense went down with a whimper. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio also missed a 29-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter that would have given the Bears the lead.
To come so close to dethroning the nation's top team and still walk away losers was devastating for the Bears.
"Saturday night to Sunday, you kind of feel like you got robbed a little bit," Cal center Chris Guarnero said. "I felt like we had opportunities and we should have won. Give credit to Oregon. They won a close game on the road."
It's not only the excitement of playing Stanford that can help the Bears move forward. The Oregon game demonstrated that Cal can be competitive with the top teams in the country, at least on defense.
"Naturally, you're going to be up for the Big Game," Mohamed said. "I think the biggest thing is last week proved we can hang with the top teams in the country. Stanford being No. 6 (in the BCS standings), they're definitely one of the great teams in the country right now. It's going to take a lot of focus, a lot of energy. But it's the Big Game. Energy isn't going to be a problem."
"The receivers have done an adequate job of route running," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "There have been some plays left on the field that we can catch. There have been some plays left on the field that we can throw better. And there's plays on the field where we could have protected better. It's football."
Most surprising has been a handful of dropped passes by wide receiver Marvin Jones. Hands are his biggest asset, and he's made several remarkable catches during his career. But in recent games, he's also failed to come down with some very catchable balls.
"He's made some great catches and dropped some others," Tedford said. "But Marv is a hardworking guy and a guy we can trust and depend on. That won't change this week."
But Mohamed led what was arguably one of the top defensive performances in the country this season, registering a career-high 16 tackles and a sack as the Bears held Oregon 40 points under its scoring average.
Saturday: Stanford at Cal, 12:30 p.m., CSNBA