The California Golden Bears (7-5, 4-5) will take on the Air Force Falcons (8-5, 6-2) in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on Tuesday, December 29. This is the first meeting between the programs since 2007, when Cal pulled out a 42-36 win on December 31, 2007 in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Cal lost five of their last seven games but closed the regular season with a 48-46 home win over Arizona State on November 28. Air Force lost their last two games, including a 27-24 defeat on the road to San Diego State in the Mountain West Championship Game on December 5. The game kicks off at 2:00 pm ET from Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas and will be televised on ESPN. Cal is currently favored by 7 points in this contest with the over/under set at 66 points.
Free Pick on the Cal Golden Bears -7
Cal managed to win two of three to close the year including a wild game with Arizona State that saw them rally from a 27-10 halftime deficit with 38 second half points. Matt Anderson booted a 26 yard field goal with no time remaining to give Cal the win. Cal outgained Arizona State 680-586 in a game that saw both teams finish with 28 first downs. The Golden Bears overcame committing the lone turnover and being dominated by a 37:38 to 22:22 margin in the contest. It was a matter of who had the ball last pulling out the win.
The Golden Bears are one of the nation’s best passing offenses as they are 5th in the nation with an average of 368.8 yards per game; they are 85th in the nation in rushing offense with 155.7 yards per contest. Cal is 23rd in the nation in scoring offense with an average of 36.5 points per game and they are tied for 88th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 30.3 points per game. Jared Goff has hit on 316 of 492 passes for 4,252 yards with 37 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Chase Forrest is the backup; he’s 10 of 18 for 162 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Khalfani Muhammad is the Golden Bears’ leading rusher with 78 carries for 539 yards and a score; Vic Enwere adds 98 carries for 486 yards and seven touchdowns while Daniel Lasco (65 carries, 331 yards, 3 TD) and Tre Watson (76 carries, 434 yards, 3 TD) have been decent backs as well. Kenny Lawler is the team’s leading receiver with 47 receptions for 583 yards and 10 scores; Stephen Anderson (40 receptions, 460 yards, 2 TD), Darius Powe (43 catches, 490 yards, 6 TD) and Bryce Treggs (41 grabs, team high 813 yards, 6 TD) are among seven players with at least 17 receptions on the season. Matt Anderson has booted 43 of 45 extra points and 16 of 19 field goal attempts on the season with a long of 48 yards.
Air Force closed the season on a tough slate as they dropped games to New Mexico and then San Diego State in the conference title game. The Falcons were involved in a back and forth matchup with the Aztecs but couldn’t come up with the final score. With neither team leading by more than seven points, the Aztecs got a 46 yard field goal from Donny Hageman with 5:10 to play to get the win. San Diego State outgained Air Force 430-346, beat the Falcons 17-14 in the first down battle and the time of possession battle 31:16 to 28:44 in the game.
The Falcons are a run-oriented offense, which is typical of the service academies. They average 130.6 yards per game (123rd in the FBS) through the air while they rack up 321.8 yards (2nd in the nation) per game on the ground. Air Force averages 33.6 points per game while they are currently 40th in scoring defense by allowing 23.2 points per contest. Karson Roberts is starting at quarterback; he’s hit 70 of 134 passes for 1,446 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions while running for 674 yards and nine scores. He took over for Nate Romine (7 of 18, 143 yards, 2 TD, INT, 111 rushing yards, TD), who tore knee ligaments back in week 2. Eleven players have at least 101 rushing yards for the Falcons with D.J. Johnson standing third on the team with 82 carries for 425 yards and six scores. Jacobi Owens currently is leading the team with 186 carries for 1,009 yards plus six scores while Shayne Davern has 46 carries for 323 yards and four scores. Garrett Brown is the team’s leading receiver with 26 receptions for 534 yards and a score; Jalen Robinette has 21 grabs for a team high 572 yards and four scores while Garrett Griffin (12 receptions, 208 yards, 3 TD) is the only other player with double digit grabs this season. Drew Oehrle has kicked 18 of 20 extra points and three of five field goals on the year with a long of 49 yards. Luke Strebel has booted all 33 extra points and 10 of his 11 field goal attempts on the year with a long of 45 yards while Matthew Philichi has kicked three extra points this season.
Cal is 4-0 ATS in their last four after allowing at least 40 points, 4-1 ATS in their last five after scoring at least 40 points and 4-1 ATS in their last five after throwing for at least 280 yards. Air Force is 6-14 ATS in their last 20 after a straight up loss and 3-9 ATS in their last 12 after giving up more than 200 yards on the ground.
This one is a clash of styles as Cal is a prolific passing attack while Air Force tends to get things done on the ground. The problem is, the Falcons don’t have the big play dynamic that the Golden Bears have as they lack a home run hitter in the ground game. That should give Cal the edge as they get the win here to celebrate Sonny Dykes’ contract extension.
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