Fading Stanford takes on bowl-bound BYU

BYU will try to upgrade its expected bowl bid while host Stanford looks to avoid adding to a season-ending losing streak when the teams end the regular season with a nonconference game Saturday night.

BYU (6-5) became bowl-eligible with a 52-26 shellacking of Utah Tech last Saturday, riding Jaren Hall’s 456-yard, five-touchdown passing day to a second consecutive win.

Meanwhile, Stanford (3-8) came up short in its Pacific-12 Conference finale last weekend, giving squandering an 11-point lead by giving up three fourth-quarter touchdowns at rival California 27-20. After entering the fourth quarter leading 17-6, the Cardinal was reduced to sending in Joshua Karty to kick a Big Game-record, 61-yard field goal on the final play of the game … while trailing by 10 points.

The Cougars and Cardinal are meeting for the third time, with Stanford sweeping a two-game series in 2003-04.

While Stanford — after opening the David Shaw era with eight straight bowl bids — will be sitting home for the fourth consecutive holiday season, BYU clinched its fifth consecutive bowl appearance and 16th in the last 17 years.

One bowl projection has the Cougars facing Kansas in the Armed Forces Bowl, a matchup that could be a preview of a Big 12 Conference game next fall after BYU, currently an independent, begins its new conference affiliation.

The Cougars are led offensively by Hall (3,078 yards and 29 passing touchdowns), and Cal transfer Christopher Brooks (565 yards and five scores).

Brooks, who rushed for 131 yards for Cal in the 2021 Big Game against Stanford, is looking forward to getting one more shot at his one-time rival.

“Very, very (high),” he noted of his excitement level to be facing Stanford. “It’s back to the Bay.”

It’s unlikely that the Cardinal, who has lost four in a row, will be able to match that enthusiasm, but Stanford coach David Shaw sees a positive in that his seniors will get one more opportunity to go out winners.

“Wanted this one really bad for them,” he said after the loss at Cal. “So many guys really gave their best effort. So many guys that were late-week (injury) decisions. Could have easily just said: ‘You know, I’m not feeling great, so coach, I can’t play.’ And they all tried. They all tried.”

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