Bowl Game Preview: Holiday Bowl Print
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Thursday, 28 December 2006 08:57
NCAAF Headline News

Texas A&M Meets California in The Holiday Bowl: A&M Favored by Bettors

Team Page: Texas A&M :: California

60% of Bets Placed on Aggies +3 | Matchup | CFB Picks
A late-season letdown kept California from a more prestigious bowl berth, but the Golden Bears still feel their accomplishments put them among the best teams in the program's history.

The 20th-ranked Bears conclude the season against No. 21 Texas A&M on Dec. 28 at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

Oddsmakers have made California -3 point spread favorites (College Football Odds) for Thursday's game, the over/under has been set at 53 total points (View CFB Sports Books).

After opening the season with a 35-18 loss to Tennessee, Cal (9-3) bounced back to win its next eight games. That streak put the Bears in position to win the Pac-10 championship outright and do no worse than claim a spot in the Rose Bowl, but they lost 24-20 at Arizona on Nov. 11 and fell 23-9 at Southern California the following week.

Despite the downfall, the Bears ended up sharing Pac-10 title for the first time since 1975 because they beat Stanford 26-17 to close the regular season while USC lost 13-9 to UCLA. The Trojans, though, ended up with the Pac-10's BCS berth in the Rose Bowl by virtue of their win over California.

Still, the Golden Bears are making their fourth consecutive bowl appearance, the longest streak in school history.

``People can say whatever they want, but 9-3 and undefeated at home, that's unprecedented at Cal in recent memory,'' tackle Andrew Cameron said. ``We're proud of everything we've done. Once people can look back at this season, they'll see how special it was.''

Cal boasts both the Pac-10 offensive and defensive players of the year in running back Marshawn Lynch and cornerback Daymeion Hughes. It's the first time the program won both honors in the same season.

Hughes was tied for third in the nation with eight interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. The senior is second on the team with 67 tackles, and has two forced fumbles and 11 pass breakups.

His performance, however, often was overshadowed by a tough year for the Bears defense. Cal ranked 90th in the nation in total defense, allowing an average of 367.7 yards per game.

Lynch, meanwhile, helped drive one of the conference's best offenses. The running back led the Pac-10 with 13 total touchdowns, finishing with 1,245 yards rushing and another 311 receiving. Lynch became the second player in Cal history with two 1,000-yard seasons and the fourth to go over 3,000 career rushing yards.

Although Lynch struggled toward the end of the season, failing to reach at least 90 yards rushing in three of the team's last four games, the junior is rumored to be considering leaving school for the NFL. Coach Jeff Tedford is expected to talk to Lynch about his future plans before the bowl game.

Lynch, though, may have to work harder to get his yards after Bears fullback Byron Storer will miss the game due to a broken arm suffered in practice last weekend. In addition to creating holes for Lynch, the senior was also a key member of Cal's special teams.

``One of the guys that makes this team tick is him,'' Tedford said Monday. ``His passion for the game and his passion for Cal football is one of the best that we have. He's really dedicated.''

Lynch's presence helps make up for the inconsistency of quarterback Nathan Longshore. He threw 12 interceptions - third most in the Pac-10 - but had 23 touchdown passes - two fewer than conference leader John David Booty of USC.

The combination of Lynch and Longshore was the centerpiece of one of the conference's most potent offenses. Cal leads the Pac-10 with 31.8 points a game and ranks second with 411.7 yards per contest.

Like the Bears, the Aggies (9-3) have a potent offense that should make the Holiday Bowl a high-scoring game.

Texas A&M averaged 401.4 yards per game, led by 274-pound running back Jorvorskie Lane, who ran for 689 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Mike Goodson, who ran for 785 yards and four scores.

The duo led the Big 12's best rushing offense, which averaged 210.5 yards per game and tallied 32 touchdowns.

The Aggies finished the season much like Cal did, losing two of their final three games after a strong start.

However, they did close with an impressive road win over their biggest rival, defeating then-No. 11 Texas 12-7. Texas A&M rushed for 244 yards against one of the nation's best run defenses.

The win was important for coach Dennis Franchione, whose struggles against Big 12 South opponents had led to questions about his tenure at College Station.

Texas A&M is 13-15 overall in bowl games and has lost five of its last six.

This will mark the Aggies' second appearance in the Holiday Bowl, played at Qualcomm Stadium. They still hold this game's record for largest margin of victory, having beaten BYU 65-14 in 1990.

``The majority of our guys have never been to California so they are thrilled,'' Franchione said.

The Bears and Aggies have met twice, in 1981 and 1983, with each winning on the other's home field.

by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us

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