Armed Forces Bowl

Armed Forces Bowl

2007 Armed Forces Bowl Preview
by Josh Nagel

California (6-6) vs. Air Force (9-3)

Conference Matchup: Pac 10 vs. Mountain West
Date: Dec. 31
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Spread: California -4

If someone had told you before the season that Air Force and California would play each other in a bowl game, it would have to mean one of two things: either a colossal disappointment for Cal, or a monumental season for Air Force that landed it a shot in a BCS game. You might even think the latter was more likely. Unfortunately for the Bears, the former came to fruition. After blistering through the early part of the season and beating a full-strength Oregon team on the road, they rose to No. 2 in the rankings only to fall victim to an upset to Oregon State with quarterback Nate Longshore out because of injury. Cal lost five of its next six, all of which were winnable, including road losses to UCLA, Arizona State and Washington and a home loss to USC. The Bears put an exclamation mark on their unfathomable tailspin with a loss to Stanford in the Big Game. It seems they never could recover from the devastating loss to the Beavers, and a would-be promising season was shot because of it. Whether they decide to play or just run through the motions will be key in this game against an Air Force program that historically takes bowl games seriously and had a fine season under up-and-coming coach Troy Calhoun that included wins over solid teams such as Utah and TCU.

California can cover if: the Bears decide they want to finish their season on a positive note. They are just a four-point favorite, but if this game were played in the season opener on a neutral site, there's no doubt they would be favored by double figures, with plenty of bettors willing to back them With the amount of weapons they have, such as running back Justin Forsett (1,406 yards, 13 touchdowns) and receiver Desean Jackson (681 yards, five scores), there's no excuse for Cal's monumental collapse. Longshore battled injuries all season, but Cal's letdown still comes as surprise given that coach Jeff Tedford has long been known for his motivational skills and his teams usually have bounced back under his reign. They have won three of their last four bowls under Tedford, and this one is all they've got to salvage some sort of dignity in an otherwise lost season. With the decided edge in talent that the Bears possess, they should win handily if they can find the will to show up and play their best game.

Air Force can cover if: it takes advantage of Cal's predicament. The Falcons have a season to be proud of after finishing just 4-8 a year ago and a win here could be another step in the rebuilding process under Calhoun. They are likely to come in with a much more positive mindset than the Bears and if the Falcons can make a few big plays and take an early lead, Cal might pack it in as it appeared to do in several of those late-season losses. What's more, its triple-option attack is difficult to prepare for and stop for a team that has not faced it on a regular basis, and the Falcons pounded the ball for 298.5 yards per game, second in the country to fellow armed forces squad Navy. Senior quarterback Shaun Carney threw for just 1,423 yards and eight touchdowns but added 529 rushing yards and five scores. Chad Hall, the Mountain West Conference offensive player of the year, ran for 1,415 yards and 14 touchdowns.

General Notes: the Falcons are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games and 7-0 ATS in their last seven games on grass. The Golden Bears are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 as a favorite of 3.5-10 points, but 1-6 ATS in their last seven against the Mountain West Conference.

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Re: Armed Forces Bowl

AIR FORCE vs. CAL (Armed Forces)...Pointspread opposites this season, AFA 7 covers in a row, Cal no covers last 7 in ‘07! Bears 1-5 against spread away from home TY, 2-7 as chalk. Tedford 2-2 SU and vs. line in bowls at Cal, and 13-26-1 against number last 40 since late ‘04. Tech edge-Air Force, based on team trends.

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Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force Falcons vs. California Golden Bears

The Air Force Falcons were 9-3 on the year and dominated ATS, while Cal disappointed bigtime after being ranked No. 2 at one point. The Golden Bears and Falcons meet December 31 at Amon Carter Stadium in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Oddsmakers currently have the Golden Bears listed as 3½-point favorites versus the Falcons, while the game's total has not yet been posted.

Air Force rushed for 569 yards in a 55-23 win over San Diego State last time out, covering the 13-point road spread. The 78 points scored were OVER the posted total of 53.5.

Shaun Carney was 8-for-14 for 101 yards and a pick, while running for 77 yards and a score. Jim Ollis added 163 yards and two touchdowns for the Falcons.

California was defeated 20-13 by Stanford last time out, as 13.5-point favorites. The combined 33 points were well UNDER the posted total of 53.

Robert Jordan caught five passes for 109 yards with a TD in the loss.

Team records:
Air Force: 9-3 SU, 9-2 ATS
California: 6-6 SU, 3-9 ATS

Air Force most recently:
When playing in December are 4-4
When playing on grass are 2-8
After outgaining opponent are 6-4
When playing outside the conference are 4-6

California most recently:
When playing in December are 5-3
When playing on grass are 3-7
After outgaining opponent are 6-4
When playing outside the conference are 9-1

A few trends to consider:
Air Force is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
Air Force is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Air Force's last 7 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of California's last 6 games
California is 16-8 SU in its last 24 games
California is 1-6 SU in its last 7 games
California is 0-5 ATS in its last 5 games

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Armed Forces Bowl Preview
By Brad Young

Armed Forces Bowl

California (6-6 SU, 3-9 ATS) vs. Air Force (9-3 SU, 9-2 ATS)

How they got there:

It has truly been a tale of two seasons for California, entering the year as a possible Rose Bowl contender. The Golden Bears won their first five games and were ranked second in the country before the wheels fell off.

Cal enters this contest going 1-6 SU and 0-7 ATS its last seven games after falling to rival Stanford in the annual Big Game as a 14-point road ‘chalk,’ 20-13. The combined 33 points never seriously threatened the 53-point closing total, helping the ‘under’ cash the past five games with a total posted.

The Golden Bears stumbled their way to a 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS road record, with the ‘under’ going 4-1. Cal’s biggest road victory occurred against Oregon when both teams were ranked in the top-10 as a seven-point underdog, 31-24.

Air Force has gone 6-1 SU and 7-0 ATS its last seven games after suffering back-to-back losses to Brigham Young and Navy. The Falcons wrapped up the regular season by throttling San Diego State as a 13-point home favorite, 55-23.

Air Force is 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS away from home, with the ‘under’ going 3-2. The Falcons’ biggest road win happened late in the season against Notre Dame as a 3 ½-point ‘chalk,’ 41-24. The combined 65 points in that contest easily eclipsed the 45-point closing total.

What to expect:

One team is clearly happy to be here, while the other school has been on autopilot the second half of the season. Cal was the second-ranked team in the nation earlier this year, and just a play away from taking over the top-spot in the country when LSU lost earlier in the day. However, the Golden Bears have never recovered from their loss to Oregon State as they play out the string. What is at stake for the school is their sixth consecutive winning season.

The long break between the regular season and bowl game might actually help Cal in this spot. Quarterback Nate Longshore has been battling an ankle injury the last part of the year, and the time off should also help the team mentally.

Air Force enters this contest riding a three-game winning streak, and has the most wins by the school since 2000. The Falcons will rely on their ground game in hopes of grinding out a victory behind Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Chad Hall.

These two teams actually have a recent game against each other under different circumstances. Cal routed Air Force in an early season 2004 contest as a 14-point road favorite, 56-14, while the combined 70 points soared ‘over’ the 53-point closing total.

Players to Watch:

California running back Justin Forsett helped the school average 162.7 yards per game on the ground, ranking 49th in the country. His running becomes even more important when quarterback Nate Longshore struggles, something he did the second half of the season after experiencing a sprained ankle. Forsett ran for 1,406 yards this season and 13 touchdowns, averaging five yards per carry.

Air Force running back Chad Hall was slightly more proficient than Cal’s Forsett. Hall averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 211 attempts for 1,415 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Falcons remain a run-dominant team, ranking second in the nation by gaining 298.5 yards per game on the ground. Air Force also ranks a dismal 119th in the country passing, gaining just 128.8 yards per game through the air.

Bowl Records:

California is appearing in its fifth consecutive bowl game under head coach Jeff Tedford. The Golden Bears are 3-1 in those games after failing to make the postseason from 1997 to 2002.

Cal began its current run by outlasting Virginia Tech in the 2003 Insight Bowl, 52-49, before falling to Texas Tech in the 2004 Holiday Bowl, 45-31. The Golden Bears then beat Brigham Young in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl, 35-28, before routing Texas A&M in last year’s Holiday Bowl, 45-10.

Air Force doesn’t quite have the same bowl pedigree as Cal, making just its third postseason appearance since 2000 and first since 2002. The Falcons slipped past Fresno State in the 2000 Silicon Valley Bowl, 37-34, before losing to Virginia Tech in the 2002 San Francisco Bowl, 20-13.

Inside the Line:

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened California as a 5 ½-point ‘chalk’ over Air Force, with the total set at 54. The total has remained constant, but the line has shifted to 3½. ESPN will provide coverage of Monday’s Armed Forces Bowl at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Expert Opinion: Paul Bovi, who has gone 4-1 this bowl season.

“It stands to reason that Air Force is approaching this game with a completely different mindset than California,” noted Bovi. “The Falcons closed out the regular season by winning six of their last seven games, making their first bowl game since 2002.

“Cal won its first five games to open this season, but finished by losing six of the next seven games that included a demoralizing loss to Stanford. The Golden Bears have won their last two bowl games, but is once again heading to a non-New Year’s Day clash.”

vegasinsider.com.

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Cal battles Air Force in Armed Forces Bowl

Fort Worth, TX (Sports Network) - The California Golden Bears limp into the fifth annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl to take on the Air Force Falcons on New Year's Eve in Fort Worth, Texas.

California began 2007 with a bang, reeling off five consecutive victories, but then the tide changed and the squad won just once in the final seven games to finish up a mere 6-6. Over the years the Bears have played rather well against the rest of the Mountain West Conference, winning 15 of the 25 meetings with member schools heading into this contest, including a 34-28 triumph over Colorado State in the second game of this season.

As for the Falcons, who are just 27-31-2 versus the Pac-10 Conference over the years, they lost only three times this year, with two of those setbacks coming against BYU and New Mexico in MWC action. The other defeat, a 31-20 decision against Navy, kept the squad from capturing the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy even with a 30-10 victory over Army the first week of November. Following the win over the Black Knights, the Falcons also registered a rare win over Notre Dame and then closed out the regular season with a decisive 55-23 victory versus San Diego State.

Cal leads the all-time series against the Falcons by a count of 5-2, blowing out the academy in the most recent encounter back in 2004 by a score of 56-14 in Colorado.

As far as past postseason experience is concerned, Air Force has produced a mark of 8-8-1 since posting a 0-0 tie in the 1959 Cotton Bowl. More recently the Falcons lost to Virginia Tech, 20-13, during the San Francisco Bowl in 2002, snapping the team's brief two-game win streak in postseason affairs.

As for California, it too has a record of 8-8-1 in bowl appearances, beginning with a 28-0 blanking of Ohio State in the 1921 Rose Bowl. The Golden Bears played in the Rose Bowl eight straight times until 1959 before heading elsewhere. In 2006, Cal topped Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl by a score of 45-10, marking the team's second straight and third postseason win in the last four opportunities.

With respect to this particular bowl, which was also known as the Fort Worth Bowl for the first three years, Utah posted a 25-13 win over Tulsa in last year's event.

Quarterback Nate Longshore was supposed to be the offensive savior for the Golden Bears this season, but he had some trouble living up to those lofty expectations. Through the first five games of 2006, Longshore had 14 touchdown passes, which ended up being just two less than he had all of this season. The signal-caller had a couple of good outings against UCLA and Washington in which he tossed three TDs apiece, but that was more the exception than the rule for the Cal passing attack which placed fourth in the Pac-10 and 52nd in the nation with an average of 233.7 ypg. Justin Forsett tried to even the playing field for the Bears as he ranked second in the conference and 19th in the nation with 116.9 ypg on the ground, accounting for 13 rushing touchdowns along the way. Primary options down the field for the Bears are Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson who both made it into the end zone five times as they reeled in 69 and 60 receptions, respectively.

Except for meetings against Washington State and Louisiana Tech, the Bears were unable to hold any other opponents to less than 20 points this season, resulting in a scoring defense that allowed 26 ppg. The run defense for the group was especially suspect as it permitted 151.9 ypg, which ranked not only seventh in the Pac-10 but also 58th in the country. Getting a strong push up the field proved to be a true test for Cal, as it generated just five tackles for loss per game and less than two sacks per outing. In terms of TFLs, the Bears were dead last in the league and 110th in the country, with the sack numbers pushing Cal to 10th in the Pac-10 and 76th in the nation as well. Thomas DeCoud registered a team-best 106 tackles for the Bears this season, but a more immediate impact was felt when Zack Follett connected with opponents, coming up with 11.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks to lead the unit in both categories in 2007. Coming up with the team's only blocked kick of the campaign, Tyson Alualu also numbered four recovered fumbles, while no one else on the team had more than one this year.

Certainly a rare breed these days, Chad Hall not only led the Falcons in rushing with 1,415 yards on 211 carries, but he also led the program with 46 catches for 488 yards and a score. The Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Hall made it into the end zone 15 times coming out of the backfield for a rushing attack that was again among the best in the country. However, under the direction of new head coach Troy Calhoun, Air Force was much more than a team that simply pounded away in the trenches. In addition to placing first in the MWC and second in the country with a staggering 298.5 ypg on the ground, Calhoun tweaked the offense so that quarterback Shaun Carney could actually become a threat when in the pocket. Carney completed 62.2 percent of his 193 attempts for 1,423 yards and eight touchdowns. While that doesn't sound like much, as it still ranked 118th in the nation this season, it is really quite remarkable given the approach Fisher DeBerry had the Falcons following for so many seasons. Giving up just 1.08 sacks per game also meant that Carney was staying out of harm's way, ranking the offensive line first in the conference and ninth in the nation in that department.

While Calhoun was able to manipulate the offense for the Falcons and give them a new look in 2007, the defense still could have played better at certain points in the season. Allowing a mere three points to South Carolina State in the opener and then 10 and 12 points to Army and Wyoming, respectively, during the season half of the season did wonders for the overall numbers for the academy. The squad finished 19th in the nation in scoring defense with just 19.3 ppg allowed and, while that is definitely a strong stat, the fact remains that there were four teams ahead of Air Force in its own conference in that department this season. The run defense appeared to be fairly tight, giving up 131 ypg, but even though that ranked fifth in the conference and 36th in the nation, some of that had to do with the fact that many opponents had to resort to passing the ball because the Falcons ate up so much of the clock with their own rushing attack. Consequently, the pass defense ended up second-to-last in the MWC with 226.2 ypg permitted. Drew Fowler led the team in tackles with 110, followed by Chris Thomas with 102 stops. John Rabold made the most of his 73 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 16.5 TFLs, not to mention three forced fumbles and as many recoveries.

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Game Preview for California vs Air Force

GAME NOTES: The California Golden Bears limp into the fifth annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl to take on the Air Force Falcons on New Year's Eve in Fort Worth, Texas. California began 2007 with a bang, reeling off five consecutive victories, but then the tide changed and the squad won just once in the final seven games to finish up a mere 6-6. Over the years the Bears have played rather well against the rest of the Mountain West Conference, winning 15 of the 25 meetings with member schools heading into this contest, including a 34-28 triumph over Colorado State in the second game of this season. As for the Falcons, who are just 27-31-2 versus the Pac-10 Conference over the years, they lost only three times this year, with two of those setbacks coming against BYU and New Mexico in MWC action. The other defeat, a 31-20 decision against Navy, kept the squad from capturing the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy even with a 30-10 victory over Army the first week of November. Following the win over the Black Knights, the Falcons also registered a rare win over Notre Dame and then closed out the regular season with a decisive 55-23 victory versus San Diego State. Cal leads the all-time series against the Falcons by a count of 5-2, blowing out the academy in the most recent encounter back in 2004 by a score of 56-14 in Colorado. As far as past postseason experience is concerned, Air Force has produced a mark of 8-8-1 since posting a 0-0 tie in the 1959 Cotton Bowl. More recently the Falcons lost to Virginia Tech, 20-13, during the San Francisco Bowl in 2002, snapping the team's brief two-game win streak in postseason affairs. As for California, it too has a record of 8-8-1 in bowl appearances, beginning with a 28-0 blanking of Ohio State in the 1921 Rose Bowl. The Golden Bears played in the Rose Bowl eight straight times until 1959 before heading elsewhere. In 2006, Cal topped Texas Aamp;M in the Holiday Bowl by a score of 45-10, marking the team's second straight and third postseason win in the last four opportunities. With respect to this particular bowl, which was also known as the Fort Worth Bowl for the first three years, Utah posted a 25-13 win over Tulsa in last year's event.

Quarterback Nate Longshore was supposed to be the offensive savior for the Golden Bears this season, but he had some trouble living up to those lofty expectations. Through the first five games of 2006, Longshore had 14 touchdown passes, which ended up being just two less than he had all of this season. The signal-caller had a couple of good outings against UCLA and Washington in which he tossed three TDs apiece, but that was more the exception than the rule for the Cal passing attack which placed fourth in the Pac-10 and 52nd in the nation with an average of 233.7 ypg. Justin Forsett tried to even the playing field for the Bears as he ranked second in the conference and 19th in the nation with 116.9 ypg on the ground, accounting for 13 rushing touchdowns along the way. Primary options down the field for the Bears are Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson who both made it into the end zone five times as they reeled in 69 and 60 receptions, respectively.

Except for meetings against Washington State and Louisiana Tech, the Bears were unable to hold any other opponents to less than 20 points this season, resulting in a scoring defense that allowed 26 ppg. The run defense for the group was especially suspect as it permitted 151.9 ypg, which ranked not only seventh in the Pac-10 but also 58th in the country. Getting a strong push up the field proved to be a true test for Cal, as it generated just five tackles for loss per game and less than two sacks per outing. In terms of TFLs, the Bears were dead last in the league and 110th in the country, with the sack numbers pushing Cal to 10th in the Pac-10 and 76th in the nation as well. Thomas DeCoud registered a team-best 106 tackles for the Bears this season, but a more immediate impact was felt when Zack Follett connected with opponents, coming up with 11.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks to lead the unit in both categories in 2007. Coming up with the team's only blocked kick of the campaign, Tyson Alualu also numbered four recovered fumbles, while no one else on the team had more than one this year.

Certainly a rare breed these days, Chad Hall not only led the Falcons in rushing with 1,415 yards on 211 carries, but he also led the program with 46 catches for 488 yards and a score. The Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Hall made it into the end zone 15 times coming out of the backfield for a rushing attack that was again among the best in the country. However, under the direction of new head coach Troy Calhoun, Air Force was much more than a team that simply pounded away in the trenches. In addition to placing first in the MWC and second in the country with a staggering 298.5 ypg on the ground, Calhoun tweaked the offense so that quarterback Shaun Carney could actually become a threat when in the pocket. Carney completed 62.2 percent of his 193 attempts for 1,423 yards and eight touchdowns. While that doesn't sound like much, as it still ranked 118th in the nation this season, it is really quite remarkable given the approach Fisher DeBerry had the Falcons following for so many seasons. Giving up just 1.08 sacks per game also meant that Carney was staying out of harm's way, ranking the offensive line first in the conference and ninth in the nation in that department.

While Calhoun was able to manipulate the offense for the Falcons and give them a new look in 2007, the defense still could have played better at certain points in the season. Allowing a mere three points to South Carolina State in the opener and then 10 and 12 points to Army and Wyoming, respectively, during the season half of the season did wonders for the overall numbers for the academy. The squad finished 19th in the nation in scoring defense with just 19.3 ppg allowed and, while that is definitely a strong stat, the fact remains that there were four teams ahead of Air Force in its own conference in that department this season. The run defense appeared to be fairly tight, giving up 131 ypg, but even though that ranked fifth in the conference and 36th in the nation, some of that had to do with the fact that many opponents had to resort to passing the ball because the Falcons ate up so much of the clock with their own rushing attack. Consequently, the pass defense ended up second-to-last in the MWC with 226.2 ypg permitted. Drew Fowler led the team in tackles with 110, followed by Chris Thomas with 102 stops. John Rabold made the most of his 73 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 16.5 TFLs, not to mention three forced fumbles and as many recoveries.

Opening up an entirely new world to the Air Force offense by relying a little more on the passing attack Calhoun, who was named the MWC Coach of the Year, has given this group so many more avenues to explore that it will be tough for the Golden Bears to stop them all.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 31, California 27

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