California vs. Air Force Prediction, Armed Forces Bowl Game Preview

    Can Air Force (8-5) find a way to gear up the running attack to offset Jared Goff and the high-powered California (7-5) passing game? Check out the California vs. Air Force prediction and Armed Forces Bowl game preview.

    December 18, 2015

    California (7-5) goes back to Texas for the second time this season – the Bears beat Texas in a mid-September thriller – to deal with the Mountain West runner-up in an interesting contrast in styles. Can Air Force (8-5) find a way to gear up the running attack to offset Jared Goff and the high-powered Bear passing game? Check out the California vs. Air Force prediction and Armed Forces Bowl game preview.


    California vs. Air Force Game Preview

    Broadcast

    Date: Tuesday, December 29

    Game Time: 2:00 pm ET
    Network: ESPN
    Venue: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
    Follow and/or Contact @PeteFiutak 

    Why You Need To Care

    Air Force came up with a fantastic season complete with a Mountain West Mountain Division championship and a great battle with San Diego State in a loss in the conference title game. As always, the running game is effective, but this year the defense has come up with one of its strongest seasons yet under head coach Troy Calhoun – especially against the pass.

    It was a streaky year, starting out 3-3 before going on a five-game winning run including the breakthrough victory over Boise State on the blue turf. On a two-game losing streak coming into this, the Falcons can’t match last year’s ten-win campaign, but they can make it two straight bowl wins after beating Western Michigan in last year’s Famous Idaho Potato.

    Cal is back bowling for the first time since 2011, losing to Texas in the Holiday. A regular on the bowl circuit in the Jeff Tedford era, it’s been a while since the Bears were a post-season player with the last bowl win coming against Miami in the 2008 Emerald.

    This year’s team is the culmination of a rebuild under Sonny Dykes, getting the offense cranked up like normal, only with a little bit of defense at times. A 5-0 start ended with a huge thud once the meat of the Pac-12 schedule kicked in, but for a program that’s been struggling to come up with anything consistently positive, it’s been a great leap forward.

    Why California Will Win

    Is it possible the Bears can just bomb their way to a win? Jared Goff and the Cal attack puts up big numbers even when it struggles, and Air Force needs to be prepared to be hit hard by a passing game that hit the 300-yard mark nine times this year and rolled against Arizona State for 542 yards and five touchdowns to close out the regular season. With the mistakes kept to a minimum with no picks in the last two games and just two in the last four, the offense started humming at just the right time. Air Force has a strong secondary, but can the offense keep up the pace?

    Time of possession doesn’t mean much to the Bears, but this might turn out to be a key part of the puzzle for a Cal O that’s wonderful on third downs. It’ll speed everything up, and Air Force has the athletes to keep up, but the D hasn’t seen anything like this all year.

    Why Air Force Will Win

    California’s run defense could get destroyed.

    There’s linebacker talent in place, and the run defense had its moments in losses to UCLA and USC, but everyone else who could run the ball did it at will. Oregon tore off 477 yards, Stanford powered its way to 260, and Utah rumbled for 265. Texas almost pulled out the win with six touchdown runs on a 286-yard day. San Diego State has one of the nation’s stingiest run defenses, but the Air Force option was able to get to the second level way too often both inside and out on the way to 305 yards and three scores. In all, the Falcons hit the 300-yard mark seven times on the season going 5-0 when coming up with 309 yards or more. Air Force will get its yards.

    Player Who Matters

    This might be the last chance to see Jared Goff do his thing at the collegiate level, and it’s time to start paying attention to him again.

    The Cal junior was everyone’s hot NFL prospect in the middle of the season after rolling for four 300-yard games in the first five dates with 15 touchdown passes, but the nationally televised loss to Utah with five interceptions cooled the fire. The four-game losing streak took all the attention off the Bears, but Goff started to pick it up in November with a brilliant 453-yard, six score day against Oregon State, a nice performance in the loss to Stanford, and then his magnum opus, a 30-of-51, 542-yard, five touchdown outing to beat Arizona State. The best player on the field, this is his game to win.

    Air Force QB Karson Roberts has run the offense to near-perfection at times, but it’s been the running of veteran Jacobi Owens that’s cranked up the production. The 6-0, 202-pound veteran came up with a huge day against San Diego State in the Mountain West title game, rolling for 156 yards on just 17 carries. He’s a home run hitter, and he’s able to keep the chains moving and control the clock, too. A workhorse at times, the Falcons will put the game in his hands.

    What’s Going To Happen?

    What do you like better, the great passing attack or the devastating running game? Each will work in what might be one of the wildest offensive shootouts of the bowl season, but Goff will be too good and good sharp. The Cal defense will give up 300 yards on the ground, but Goff will come up with a few late scoring drives to keep the Falcons at arm’s length. Air Force will have to throw late, and it won’t be able to do it.

    California vs. Air Force Prediction

    Final Score: California 38, Air Force 34, Line: Air Force -7, o/u: 66
    Must See Rating: 5: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – 1: Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch … 3.5

    MORE: BOWLNANZA: 40 video previews for 40 bowl games

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