A battle of contrasting offensive styles will be on display as the California Golden Bears (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) take on the Air Force Falcons (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West)in the Armed Forces Bowl on Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas.
California finished under .500 inside the conference but will play their first postseason game under Sonny Dykes after not appearing in a bowl game in four years. It was a season of streaks for the Golden Bears, who began the season 5-0 including victories over Texas, Washington and Washington State. A four-game losing streak ensued, beginning with then-No. 5 Utah and continuing with losses to UCLA, USC and Oregon. The No. 4 scoring team in the Pac-12 became bowl-eligible with a 55-24 win over Oregon State before losing to then-No. 11 Stanford. Cal closed out the season on a high note, coming back from a 27-10 deficit to defeat Arizona State 48-46.
The No.5 passing team in the nation (368.8 yards per game) was paced by quarterback Jared Goff, who could be making his Cal finale in the Armed Forces Bowl. The junior finished No. 8 in the nation in passing yards (4,252) and No. 5 in touchdown passes (37). He recorded at least two passing touchdowns in every game this season and threw for 542 yards and five scores in the finale against the Sun Devils. Air Force ranked No. 23 in the nation in pass yards allowed per game (190.4).
California’s last bowl win came at the 2011 Emerald Bowl, a 24-17 win over Miami.
Where the Golden Bears want to pass, the Air Force wants to run. The Falcons ran for 321.8 yards per game behind their triple-option offense, good for No. 2 in the nation. California ranked No. 11 in Pac-12 rush defense, allowing 203.5 yards per game.
They began the season 2-0 but went on to lose two straight, on the road at then-No. 4 Michigan State and rival service academy Navy. The Falcons split their next two and were at 3-3 when a five-game winning streak of their own was sparked by a 42-14 win over Fresno State. They followed up with a dominating performance of Hawaii before beating another rival in Army by a 20-3 score to secure bowl eligibility. The highlight of the season for Troy Calhoun’s team was likely a 37-30 win over Boise State on the blue turf in Idaho where the Falcons accumulated 607 yards of offense, including 328 rushing yards. The victory went on to be integral in finishing ahead of the Broncos and winning the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference.
Air Force was a field goal away from the conference title, losing by three to San Diego State. The Falcons played in and won the 2014 Idaho Potato Bowl over Western Michigan, 38-24.
This won’t be the first time that California and Air Force meet in the Armed Forces Bowl. The two schools met in the 2007 installment of the game, with the Golden Bears winning 42-36.
Start Time: 2:00 p.m.
TV Channel: ESPN
Betting Odds: California -6.5
Prediction: Both teams execute their style of offense so well that this is sure to be a high-scoring fair with quick strike ability on both sides of the field. Cal’s passing attack behind Goff could prove too much for Air Force to overcome, but there is no reason why they can’t score enough to battle the Bears the whole way. Cal should earn a tight win, 45-41.