• With uncertainty at quarterback, TCU will struggle to move the ball against a Cal defense that allowed only 21.3 points per game this season.
By Zachary Cohen
December 10, 2018

Cheez-It Bowl – TCU Horned Frogs vs. California Golden Bears (-1.0)

Wed., December 26, 9:00 pm ET

Three things to know before betting on TCU-California:

1. While TCU is 6-3 straight up in its last nine bowl games, the Horned Frogs are just 2-7 against the spread. Meanwhile, the Golden Bears are playing in their first bowl game since Jared Goff lit up Air Force for 467 yards with six touchdowns and no picks back in 2015. Current head coach Justin Wilcox has breathed new life into this Cal program, and his players will be fired up to earn a win for him here. Cal also happens to be an impressive 9-2 against the spread in the second half of the season over the last two seasons and 10-2 against the spread after playing three straight conference games in that span. Combine that with the fact that TCU is just 12-26 against the spread in all lined games over the last three seasons and it becomes clearer why the Golden Bears should win this one.

Rose Bowl Betting Preview: Haskins, Ohio State Face a Tough Washington Defense

2. There weren’t many defenses better than Cal’s this season. Outside of lopsided losses against Oregon and UCLA, the Golden Bears held every one of their opponents to 24 points or less. The most impressive part of their season was a two-week stretch in which they held Washington and Washington State to a total of 29 points. The Bears swarm against the run. California allowed only 132.3 rushing yards per game and a scant 3.5 yards per carry. That’s going to be a huge issue for TCU, which doesn't exactly have an explosive passing game to fall back on. Wide receiver Jalen Reagor is a special talent that sees action in both the running and receiving games, but TCU quarterback Grayson Muehlstein's inexperience will make it tough for the Horned Frogs' offense to get going.

3. In a game where points will come at a premium, the presence of running back Patrick Laird could make all the difference in the world for the Golden Bears. TCU’s rushing defense is every bit as good as Cal’s, but Laird’s ability to run between the tackles is huge. The senior rushed for 932 yards and five touchdowns this season, and he can be an absolute bruiser. His job will be to wear the Horned Frogs out, and if Laird is having success in the ground game then it will make things easier on freshman quarterback Chase Garbers. Garbers had taken his licks in his first year under center, but he has been improving. Going against a TCU team that doesn’t have much to play for, Garbers could get some much-needed confidence heading into his sophomore season.

Pick: California -1.0

Confidence level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)