When you break down the two teams in the Holiday Bowl, they are remarkably similar...
Both started the season strong with 8 wins in 9 games. Both stumbled at the end with 2 losses in their final 3 contests. One difference is that Texas A&M finished the season strong with an upset over rival Texas in the final game of the regular season. Cal limped through an uninspired win over hapless Stanford. But does a strong finish mean anything?
Let's ask UCLA. Huge win over cross town rival USC to finish the season. Lays an egg against FSU in the Emerald Bowl. How do you shut down USC but allow a Jeff Bowden offense to score 40+ on you. I hope DeWayne Walker secretly signed a head coaching contract prior to that game, because all the goodwill he gained for the USC game just went out the window.
So back to the Bears...
We already gave you our score prediction, so now we are going to tell you want to look for in the game.
- TAMU RB Jorvorski Lane vs Cal LB Desmond Bishop
Texas A&M has a 275 lb running back. Cal has a 265 lb linebacker. Much is being made of this match up and it should be interesting to watch. But Desmond is a solid tackler and does not seem to have problems with size so much as speed.
- TAMU QB Stephen McGee/RB Mike Goodsen vs Cal LB Worrell Williams/Mickey Pimentel
When TAMU runs the option wide it will be up to the outside linebackers to contain. Either force McGee to pitch to Goodsen and lets Hughes and Thompson make solid tackles on the outside, or force McGee to turn it back inside and face a big hit from Bishop. It is important that the linebackers do not over pursue, play within their assignments. McGee does not turn the ball over and Goodsen is a speedster averaging almost 7 a carry.
- TAMU pass defense vs Cal wide receivers
I really can't remember the last time the Cal receivers came up big as a unit. Sure, there were great individual efforts but you have to go back to the Oregon game to see the receivers really playing well together. What this means is no dropped balls, crisp routes, staying in bounds, not falling down over your own feet. TAMU pass defense is good (they shut down Colt McCoy and Texas) but the Cal offense is a different beast than what they face in the Big 12.
- San Diego Wind vs Cal QB Nate Longshore
Mother Nature is testing our boy Longshore. Windy conditions at Memorial Stadium against Stanford is normal. Windy conditions in San Diego, land of perpetual summer, is just a bad sign. It seems that unless conditions are perfect Longshore has the possibility of struggling. He has not gotten into a passing rhythm in quite a while and we will see if the wind will play with his head.
Enjoy the game in San Diego. Cheer for your Bears and celebrate a great win. Again, this is a program that is climbing and will climb to new heights. We are only at the beginning of the Tedford Era.