California Golden Bears (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Texas Longhorns (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Wednesday, December 28, 2011, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California, TV: ESPN
by Scotty L, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cal +3/Tex -3
Over/Under Total: 47.5
The California Golden Bears meet the Texas Longhorns in San Diego on December 28 in the Holiday Bowl. This is the first ever meeting between these two teams, who each finished the season at 7-5. Though the Golden Bears are not particularly known for being a bowl powerhouse, this is their 8th postseason appearance in 9 years. Texas, meanwhile, will be making their 50th bowl appearance–good for 2nd all-time.
Momentum-wise, the nod definitely goes to Cal, who won 3 of their last 4 games, all of which saw them cover the spread. Their only loss was a 3-point setback to 4th-ranked Stanford. While that game might not have been as close as the final score indicates, this is a team that has gotten better late. Or at least that is what the results indicate.
Texas might have stumbled to the finish, but the Golden Bears might have faced similar outcomes if they were facing the teams the Longhorns played. You never like to back a team that finished badly, but the 25 days between their last game and the Holiday Bowl will surely help this young Texas squad. The bad memories will not be so fresh by game-time. In addition, they will be able to rest some banged-up players, particularly at running back. One could also figure that a stout Texas D, especially against the run, will be very well-prepared come December 28.
It remains to be seen how well Cal RB Isi Sofele will fare against a smothering Texas defense. Sofele ran for over 1261 yards, but if he starts getting stuffed, the Bears will be forced to rely more on QB Zach Maynard, which might not be an altogether bad thing. Maynard closed the season strongly, throwing only 1 interception in his final 4 starts. Keenan Allen (88-1254-6) and Marvin Jones (54-758-3) are a pair of legitimate 63 passing threats who could be a handful for the Texas secondary.
Texas 5 losses came to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas State, and Baylor. Cals 5 losses came to Washington, Oregon, USC, UCLA, and Stanford. While close, Texas has a slight edge in this department. Cal played a good first half against Oregon and held Stanford to a 3-point win, but losses to UCLA and Washington are less flattering than Texas losing to 7-5 Missouri. Cal played some tough teams–make no mistake about it, but Texas probably had it a little tougher in the deeper Big-12.
Texas, while not close to where they want to be, are an improving squad after a sub-.500 record last year. Head coach Mack Brown made some nice preseason coaching hires and the results showed. A win in this game would be get that arrow squarely pointed upward with Texas as an up-and-coming squad.
With 69 points scored in their final 4 games, the Texas offense is not flying high coming into this game. Their passing game is negligible, with QB Case McCoy tossing a mere 7 touchdown passes. The Texas running game is a top-20 unit, with an amazing 8 backs in triple-figures in rushing yardage. Cals defense is OK against both the run and pass, but with over a month to prepare for this game, expect them to at least be prepared for a heavy dose of run game from the Longhorns. Texas D should be able to key in on the Cal run, but faces more of a diverse offense than what the Cal D will be facing.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Holiday Bowl has featured 13 straight games with the Big-12 facing the Pac-10. The results are almost even, with teams from the Big-12 winning 7 games and the Pac-10 taking 6 games. Texas struggling and mistake-prone offense is a cause for worry, but look their defense to come up big. This young squad will be eager to positively punctuate the season and the extra practices will help get them extra ready for a good, but beatable Cal team. Take the Texas Longhorns minus 3 points.
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