Tuesday, December 27, 2011

PS Bowl-A-Thon 2011: Holiday Bowl

The Holiday Bowl is brought to you by the Hotel California and any other corporate sponsor they can find that isn't already the sponsor of the Stadium.

The Where and When:
Wednesday, December 28th; 7 p.m. CST Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego. ESPN/ESPN3.

The Who:
California Golden Bears (7-5, 4-5 PAC12) vs. Texas Longhorns (7-5, 4-5 Big12). Texas is 4-0 against the Bears. The last meeting was a 56-15 shellacking in 1970.

The Why:
This really used to be a fun bowl with a BYU or San Diego State team that could light it up against slower, bigger Midwest team. Think Rose Bowl. Now it’s gone corporate with mediocre teams who can bring their fan bases.

Enter the Texas Longhorns who have a distinguished history of playing better football than they are right now. However, the Longhorn faithful travel. One of the biggest universities in one of the biggest states- their alumni are plentiful and with high oil prices (there I said it) they have cash to burn.

Cal provides the other half of this pre-meaningful bowls appetizer. The Bears provide a national name and populous state that might help ratings. They do not travel as well, but frankly this game is almost a home game, so they should be well represented by their fans.

What Smartypants Accounting Guy Would Tell You:
Cal’s offensive unit got better in 2011 with 418 yards per game to rank 37th in the country. The passing game is the weapon of choice with 251.50 ypg. Much of the damage on offense was done by QB Zach Maynard throwing to Keenan Allen, a first-team All-Pac-12 choice that is second in the conference in receptions (7.42) and third in receiving yards (105.08) per game.

Cal featured the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year in Mychal Kendricks. The linebacker led a defense that paced the Pac-12 in pass defense (209.08 ypg, No. 43 NCAA) and tackles for loss (7.67 tflpg, No. 5 NCAA), while ranking second in total defense (339.42 ypg, No. 26 NCAA).

Texas enters the game as the Big 12 leader in total defense (315.3 ypg/14th NCAA) and rushing defense (103.7 ypg/11th NCAA). The Horns are led by a trio of senior starters in linebackers Emmanuel Acho (120 tackles/18 TFL) and Keenan Robinson (92 tackles/8 TFL) along with safety Blake Gideon (77 tackles/two interceptions). Texas has posted its defensive success despite facing six of the top 15 offensive teams in the country.

The Longhorns offense is led by a ground attack that averages 210.4 yards per game and ranks 19th nationally. Texas is averaging 404 yards of offense and nearly 30 points per game. Although they've been limited with injuries over the last few weeks, true freshman running backs Malcolm Brown (707 yards and 5 TDs) and Joe Bergeron (454 yards and 5 TDs) are expected back at full speed for the Holiday Bowl. They combined to produce 1,161 yards, 10 TDs and four 100-yard rushing games in their first season at Texas. With a young QB duo of sophomore Case McCoy and true freshman David Ash taking the snaps, the Longhorns passing attack has been led by another true freshman, Jaxon Shipley. And yes, if McCoy to Shipley seems familiar- it is.

Pool Prognosticators Pattern:
Been to both states. Both are a part of college lore with great rivalries. Cal is for sure a better school, but Texas is more fun. However, the two are exact opposites in political culture. California is the home of stupid laws, regulations and taxes. Consequently people and companies are fleeing California.

Texas on the other hand has created over 40% of new jobs in this country over the last two years. Low taxes, low regulation, and a culture of self-sufficiency. They also shoot Coyotes rather than protect them. So in this ideological battle- Don’t Mess with Texas.

Vegas Edge:
Vegas has the Horns a 3-point favorite. Over/Under is 47.5.

California is 4-0 against the spread in their last four games overall, 4-1 against the spread in their last five games against the Big 12, and 0-6 against the spread as an underdog up to three points. Texas is 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 non-conference games, 3-8 against the spread in their last 11 bowl games, and 7-18-1 against the spread in their last 26 against a team with a winning record.

The last two games I’ve picked the over with sure-fire offensive juggernauts and been wrong. Therefore with two solid defenses- I’d go under here.

The Sweatpants Verdict:
This should be a competitive and entertaining game. Both teams are saying the right thing about how this bowl will set the tone for the future.

Cal should be able to pass the ball and Texas should be able to run. Both defenses can stop the other for stretches making it a low scoring affair. Turnovers will as always probably play the decisive role here.

I’ll take the Horns to cover in a 21-17 nail biter.

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