Stanford, Cal get ready for Big Game


So watching film of Stanford scoring 106 points the past two weeks against those same two teams has Tedford just a little concerned heading into the Big Game on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.

"It's probably the most impressive thing I've seen, as far as their performance against SC and Oregon," Tedford said Monday. "That's not easy to do. You really have to give them a lot of credit for where they are and what they've accomplished."

Stanford is playing its best football of late, beating then-No. 7 Oregon 51-42 on Nov. 7 and knocking off No. 11 USC 55-21 last Saturday to move into the thick of the Pac-10 race. The Cardinal can earn a Rose Bowl bid by beating California at home next week and getting losses by Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona down the stretch.

The turnaround engineered by coach Jim Harbaugh from a 1-11 season under Walt Harris to now has been nothing short of remarkable. The Cardinal have moved up to No. 14 in the latest Associated Press poll as excitement on The Farm has reached such great heights that even Tiger Woods is planning to be on the Stanford sideline for the Big Game.

Harbaugh wants to make sure all the hype doesn't distract his players from the "blue-collar" mentality that he has instilled in his team.

"Maybe for a day yesterday we were a white-collar football team," Harbaugh said. "We have to get back to our identity starting today. The hubris, the overconfidence can be a killer. We can't afford that. We know who we are. We're a blue-collar team that has to prepare, to study and to practice with great intensity."

Harbaugh caused some controversy in the win against USC by going for a 2-point conversion with a 48-21 lead and 6:47 remaining. Harbaugh and Trojans coach Pete Carroll reportedly got into a tiff at the postgame handshake, but Harbaugh defended his decision Monday.

"I felt like it was the right thing to do, knowing SC would have at least two more possession opportunities, not including onside kicks," he said. "We wanted to be full throttle all game. I felt like we were going to get it. That's why we did it. Credit USC for stopping us on it."

Harbaugh is beating and irritating the Pac-10 powerhouse and isn't planning to leave anytime soon. He is close to signing an extension, with athletic director Bob Bowlsby saying an announcement should be coming soon.

"I love Stanford, I love Stanford football, I love our stadium, our players probably most of all and our coaches," Harbaugh said. "I hope I have the honor of coaching at Stanford for a very long time. I believe that Mr. Bowlsby and I will have an announcement about that in the not too distant future. I'm sure you understand that our focus has to be on Cal and the Big Game this week. It just has to be."

Harbaugh has a 16-18 record in three years at Stanford, beating USC twice and Cal once during his tenure. He has qualified Stanford for its first bowl game since 2001.

Cal will again be short-handed for the game as star tailback Jahvid Best recovers from a concussion. Tedford said there is "no chance" Best would play against the Cardinal. Best sustained his second concussion in an eight-day period when he fell on his back and head from about 8 feet in the air Nov. 7 against Oregon State.

Best returned to the team late last week and was an honorary captain before the Golden Bears beat Arizona last Saturday. Best has 16 touchdowns and 867 yards rushing this season.

"Not having a player like Jahvid Best, let's be honest, the guy is one of the best players in the country," Tedford said. "You can't say we're not going to miss Jahvid Best. That doesn't mean our other guys aren't going to step up and play."

Backup Shane Vereen ran for a career-high 159 yards, including a late 61-yard touchdown, last week that led Cal past then-No. 18 Arizona 24-16.

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