Armed Forces Bowl
This season was supposed to be a highlight reel for Jared Goff in his ascension to the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. After a 5-0 start, it sort of looked that way, but California quickly lost Four straight Games and never looked the same. In the Armed Forces Bowl against an Air Force team that made it to the MWC title Game, the Golden Bears are a -7 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
Air Force was an afterthought to win the MWC’s Mountain division over Boise State, but that’s exactly what happened. The Falcons took down the Broncos on the road in their biggest Game of the season and that led them to the Conference title Game, in which they narrowly lost to San Diego State 27-24. However, Air Force’s only other road win this year was at Hawaii. They got good experience against Michigan State and Navy, but couldn’t pull together the motivation at Colorado State and New Mexico. And the fact remains, AFA’s only win against a winning team was that Boise State Game.
California looked like a Top 25 team until its Pac-12 Schedule picked up. The losses started with back-to-back road Games at Utah and UCLA, and then meetings with USC and Oregon didn’t help. But at the end of the day, the Golden Bears’ five losses came against the best five teams in the Pac-12 so there’s no harm there. Early season wins against Washington and Washington State ended up being better than they appeared at the time, as well.
In like opponents, Cal dominated SDSU 35-7 at the beginning of the year, while Air Force lost in the MWC title Game to the Aztecs.
This Game is a huge contrast in styles with Air Force running the triple option and California being pass-heavy led by Jared Goff.
The immediate problem for Cal is that its run defense isn’t good, allowing more than 200 yards per Game on the year. They also don’t have much experience against the triple option.
Earlier in the year, Air Force ran for 279 yards against a solid Michigan State defense, so it’s a wonder what will happen to California. Karson Roberts became the starting QB a couple Games into the year for the Falcons and he’s done a good enough job, but obviously his passing numbers leave a lot to be desired (9 TDs, 10 INTs). Still, that’s not something this offense really cares about. The Falcons finished second in the country with 321.8 rushing yards per Game. Back Jacobi Owens (1,009 yards, 6 TDs) has been the driving force in the running Game for most of the season, but Timothy McVey has six touchdowns in the last two Games and is getting more looks. Roberts has been solid as well with 674 rushing yards and is tied for the team lead with nine touchdowns.
If Air Force falls behind early, it’s going to be tough for them to keep up because when asked to pass more, Roberts hasn’t succeeded.
As for the Falcons defense, they’ve been solid against the pass, but haven’t really faced a passing offense like this all year. against Michigan State, Connor Cook threw Four touchdowns and mostly had his way with this defense.
Goff finished with 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the year, closing with a huge five-touchdown, 542-yard performance in the regular season finale against Arizona State. His options are endless at wide out with six different receivers having at least 36 receptions and 460 yards this season. He’ll likely sling the ball around 50 times, especially if Air Force is scoring, but running back Tre Watson has taken up a decent-sized role towards the end of the year. Watson has 289 rushing yards on just 39 carries in the last three Games and should keep the Falcons defense honest.
California doesn’t have the type of defense to blow out teams, especially one that is expected to run all over them. That makes this 7-point spread seem a bit high as Four of Cal’s seven wins this year have been by single digits.
The Golden Bears have failed to cover in Four straight December Games, while the over has hit in Four straight for the Falcons against teams with a winning record.
Despite Our model liking Cal by a couple of TD’s, we have to look to Air Force here as the 102nd ranked rushing defense of Cal should allow the Air Force to stay in this one till the end. Upset?
Our Pick – Air Force +7