Rosas: This is the most dominant period in Stanford football history

Nov. 16, 2016, 8:04 p.m.

On a late November weekend in 2013, Stanford emphatically embarrassed its longstanding rival, the Cal Golden Bears, in the largest margin of defeat in Big Game history, sending the Bears home to finish their 1-11 season while clinching the Pac-12 North title as the clock wound down to zero. The 63-10 walloping not only brought rejoicing for Stanford fans in the moment, it also served to showcase a Cardinal program that stood leaps and bounds above its historic rivals.

Since that statement victory, Stanford’s football seasons have had their highs and lows, but the annual beatdowns of Cal by the Cardinal have become a constant. In fact, as we gear up for the 119th edition of this vaunted rivalry, Stanford football looks poised to match a Big Game consecutive-win record, and, if Stanford exits with another victory, it will be a statement on what has come to be undoubtedly the most dominant period of Cardinal football in the century-plus long Big Game history.

Beyond just the consecutive win record, the measure of Stanford’s continual domination of its Berkeley rivals over the past six years – excluding a rocky first-half start from the Cardinal and then-quarterback Andrew Luck in 2011 – has only grown in disparity since Stanford reclaimed the Axe in 2010, ultimately to the point that the rivalry rarely seems competitive on the field.

Compared the the 1995-2001 seven-game winning streak from the Cardinal, Stanford’s dominance over this period has been far and away more of a program statement year-by-year than anything else. Unlike the continually rebuilding Bears, who only really flashed in the third year of Goff’s Golden Bears tenure, this modern and physically imposing Stanford program under Shaw simply knows how to fend off any attempt at competitiveness from the Bears, as has been highlighted by the back-to-back-to-back routs in the last three years.

Despite entering this game with a shell of the Cardinal offense that pushed McCaffrey to a school-record 389 all-purpose yards in last year’s rivalry game, Las Vegas Westgate still favors the Cardinal over the Golden Bears by an impressive 11-point margin, and with the rapidity of yearly radical change in college football, Stanford’s sustained success shows more than just a trend but instead an era of dominant Cardinal football previously unseen in this more than century-long rivalry.

In the six-game winning streak against Cal thus far, the Cardinal have tied and subsequently broken the scoring record in the Big Game, in addition to holding the Golden Bears to under two touchdowns in three of those six games. The largest margin of victory, Cal’s most losses in a single season and two Stanford Rose Bowl victories later, the Cardinal have yet to look back after their last upset loss.

Relating back to the 1995-2001 Stanford successes, the Cardinal only reached one Rose Bowl in that stint, while climbing the rankings to No. 22 nationally in the old BCS system. Even beyond postseason success, Stanford’s teams never truly flexed a dominant muscle against the Golden Bears, with the largest defeat being by 21 points in the 1996 42-21 edition of the Big Game. Even in Cal’s succeeding five-game win streak in the 2002-06 campaigns, in which the Cardinal scored seven or fewer points in three of those games, the modern-day Cardinal have dominated the Big Game rivalry unlike any other team historically.

Heading into this Saturday, Stanford’s ceiling seems expansive while Cal continues to find the floor. The Bears are playing in desperation mode, as Cal needs to win out to even qualify for bowl contention. While Shaw and his team understand there’s a lot more to work on in practice, Stanford’s dominance for years and recruiting power only looks to increase.

That’s not to say I believe that the Cardinal are invincible on Saturday. I still feel that the Stanford offense remains a problem for Shaw and the team as they rely too heavily on the run. But, I think it’s safe to say that this period in Big Game history and the way that the two programs are heading has ushered in an era of Stanford dominance unlike any fans have seen prior.


If you disagree with Lorenzo Rosas, please direct your comments to The Daily Californian at 510-548-8300, or just shoot Lorenzo an email at enzor9 ‘at’

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