STANFORD -- Three days after a loss at USC, Stanford coach David Shaw and his players offered numerous reasons for giving their full attention to the Big Game despite being an overwhelming favorite against Cal.

But it comes down to this: The Cardinal doesn't have a choice.

"We have to finish strong," nose tackle David Parry said. "We still have a lot of our goals attainable, and Cal is in our way."

Stanford has been eliminated from the national championship race and would need an unlikely series of results elsewhere to earn an at-large berth to the Bowl Championship Series.

But the Cardinal (8-2, 6-2 Pac-12) remains in contention for the Pac-12 North title and a spot in the conference championship game.

To win the division, two things must happen: Oregon must lose, and Stanford must beat Cal.

The 10th-ranked Cardinal will take the field Saturday before it knows the outcome of the Oregon-Arizona game. It can't assume the Ducks will win and must play with all available urgency.

"Our guys are unbelievably resilient," Shaw said. "They can't wait to get back on the field. There's going to be energy. There's going to be fire.

"We anticipate Cal doing everything in its power. And we're not impervious. We've shown some weakness."

Except in the situation it faces this week:

The Cardinal hasn't lost back-to-back games since the middle of the 2009 season, and it hasn't lost at home in two years.

"We know the energy will be there," Parry said, "but we're going to prepare for them like we prepare for everybody else."

  • Shaw's assessment of quarterback Kevin Hogan: The sophomore made five bad plays against USC.

    "Five plays, and that's the difference between good and great," said Shaw, who declined to name the plays in question.

    "He's a very good quarterback who's improving but isn't perfect."

  • Kicker Jordan Williamson, who didn't play last week after aggravating a leg injury, is questionable for the Big Game.

    "There's something going on in there, and we hope to get it rectified," Shaw said.

    Conrad Ukropina replaced Williamson at USC and had a 30-yard field-goal attempt blocked by Chad Wheeler midway through the third quarter.

    "It was not as high as it could be," Shaw said. "But (Wheeler) timed it perfectly."

  • Receiver Ty Montgomery and cornerback Alex Carter were held out of practice because of aches and pains. They are expected to play Saturday.

  • As of Tuesday afternoon, fewer than 1,000 tickets were available for the Big Game, according to Stanford.

  • Kickoff for the Nov. 30 finale against Notre Dame is 4 p.m. on Fox.

  • If Stanford wins the North, it would likely host the Pac-12 championship on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. The Cardinal would play on the road only if USC wins the South.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at jwilner@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5716.