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California Golden Bears vs. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU Horned Frogs (6-6) vs. California Golden Bears (7-5)

College Football: Wednesday December 26, 2018 9:00 PM ET (Chase Field)

Odds: Spread Cal -1, O/U 38.5

Free College Football Pick California Golden Bears vs TCU Horned Frogs

This Wednesday, the TCU Horned Frogs and the California Golden Bears will face off at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona for the Cheez-It Bowl in what looks to be a defensive matchup.

TCU has struggled this season, going just 6-6 this year after going 11-3 the previous year. They’ve dealt with some debilitating injuries that have really hurt them down the stretch. Despite this, TCU has managed to just make a bowl game, head coach Gary Patterson’s 16th in the last 18 seasons. The Horned Frogs were able to pull this off thanks to their stellar defense, which is a rarity in the Big 12. They’re the 26th ranked defense in the nation, as well as the top defense in yards allowed per game (344.4) in their conference. They are also second in the conference in points allowed per game (24.2), third in rushing yards allowed (141.8) and first passing yards allowed (202.6). While their defense is one of the best in the conference, their offense is one of the worst, coming in as the 91st ranked offense in the nation. They also finished the regular season in the bottom half of the conference in most offensive statistical categories.

They also come into this game as a team battling injuries to key players. TCU will start senior third-string quarterback Grayson Muehlstein in this one. He has only one start to his name during his time with the Horned Frogs, which was the regular season finale this season against Oklahoma State. In that game he played pretty well, completing 16 of his 25 passes for 180 yards and scoring two touchdowns in a 31-24 victory. They also will be without their first option at running back, with junior Darius Anderson out with a leg injury. Anderson will finish as the leading rusher for the team this season, running for 598 yards and three touchdowns in seven starts. He also had a 93-yard touchdown earlier this year, the longest touchdown run in TCU history. He’ll be replaced by Emari Demercado most likely. How these backups play against a tough Cal defense will be key for the Horned Frogs.

Cal will play in their first bowl game since 2015, when Jared Goff was the quarterback leading the charge for The Golden Bears. Like the Horned Frogs, Cal sports a sturdy defense that causes problems for opposing offenses. They have the 16th-best defense in the nation and the 24th-best scoring defense. It’ll certainly be a change of pace for TCU, who hasn’t faced a quality defense like Cal all season. The Golden Bears have turned in some impressive performances so far, including holding a top 10 Washington team to 10 points and a Washington State team who averaged 38.3 points per game this season to 13. While they are absolutely dominant on the defensive side of the football, their offense has struggled all season. They rank 110th in total offense and 108th in scoring offense.

Their x-factor will be senior running back Patrick Laird. The former walk-on has been an absolute workhorse over the past two seasons for Cal, racking 2,059 yards and 13 touchdowns. This year he has 932 yards on the ground as well as 50 receptions for 291 yards. He scored nine total touchdowns this season, and how he plays against a stingy TCU team will be a huge factor in this game. The big key, however, will be how their defense matches up against TCU’s offense. While the Horned Frogs haven’t played great on that side of the ball this year, it still features some explosive playmakers like wide receiver Jalen Reagor. TCU has been creative with how they get him the ball, and he’s racked up 649 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns in just the last five games, including 212 scrimmage yards against Oklahoma State aided by an 83-yard touchdown. However, this Cal defense has had plenty of time to prepare for this TCU team and most likely have some idea of how they can stop them.

Cover The Spread 365 CFB Trends

TCU Horned Frogs

4-8 ATS overall this season

Under is 6-5 this season

4-1 ATS in last five neutral site games

California Golden Bears

6-5-1 ATS overall this season

Under is 7-1 in last eight games

1-5 ATS in last six neutral site games

FREE College Football Prediction California Golden Bears vs. TCU Horned Frogs

This is going to be an absolute rock fight. In this ugly matchup, I’ll take Cal at -1. Cal’s defense is so much better than the majority of Big 12 defenses that TCU has played. I expect TCU’s Muelhstein to struggle significantly more against this Cal team than with a deflated Oklahoma State and Baylor. It’ll be ugly, but the Golden Bears should leave Chase Field victorious.

Pick: California Golden Bears -1