Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth (Dec. 29, 2:00 PM Eastern)
Air Force Falcons vs California Golden Bears (-7, 63 o/u)
Jared Goff’s first bowl game of his collegiate career also marks his last chance to make an impression on NFL scouts. Goff seems destined to enter next spring’s draft, so he’ll look to end his California Golden Bears (7-5, 4-5 Pac 12) career on a high note with a win over the Air Force Falcons (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West) in the Armed Forces Bowl.
It certainly will be an interesting matchup between the two offenses: the Golden Bears are the fifth-ranked passing attack in the nation, while the Falcons have the country’s third-best rushing attack. Despite the differences in how they operate, both teams are capable of putting up points.
Ironically enough, the Falcons rarely took to the air this season, ranking fourth-last in the NCAA with only 155 passing attempts. Air Force’s commitment to the ground game was insane, running the ball over 83-percent of the time on offense to lead the nation in rushing attempts. All told, they totaled 4,183 yards on the ground this season, averaging 5.5 yards a carry and scoring 42 touchdowns. It truly was a team attack, too: running back Jacobi Owens led the way with only 1,009 yards on 186 carries.
Cal’s offense was the complete opposite: they used Goff and the passing attack to set up the run game. The Golden Bears threw the ball nearly 56-percent of the time, and had great success doing it. Goff finished the year with 4,252 yards and 37 touchdowns, top-five in the nation in both categories. He spread the ball around, too, boasting six receivers with 35 or more catches.
The Golden Bears averaged 36.5 points per game and the Falcons had 33.5. But both offenses are far from perfect.
Air Force doesn’t have the passing attack capable of staging late-game drives or fourth-quarter comebacks. Senior QB Karson Roberts has a measly 52-percent completion rate and has thrown nine TDs to ten interceptions. The opportunistic Golden Bears D had 14 interceptions on the year. If the Air Force run game isn’t controlling the pace and keeping the score close, they can’t hang with top-level talent.
Goff has the best protection he’s seen in three years at Cal and it was still pretty terrible. He was sacked 25 times this year and hit countless more. The Falcons D can get after passers, recording 36 sacks of their own this season, to go along with 11 interceptions.
The two teams only faced one common opponent this year: the San Diego State Aztecs. Cal throttled them in Week 2, 35-7, while Air Force lost, 27-24, in the Mountain West Championship.
Air Force is 1-3 in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Golden Bears won their only previous appearance over the Falcons in 2007. But Cal has lost their last two bowl games while Air Force is coming off a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last year.
Air Force also enters this game 9-4 against the spread, including winning six of their last seven. Cal went 5-7 against the number, including losing five of their last six.
For this one, I’d suggest taking the Falcons to keep this offensive shootout close.
Pick: Air Force (+7) and OVER (63).
(Photo Credit: John Martinez Pavliga (flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
Let's have fun and keep it civil.