ARMED FORCES BOWL
AIR FORCE FALCONS (8-5) vs. CAL GOLDEN BEARS (7-5)
Kickoff: 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, Tuesday, Dec. 29
Las Vegas: Cal -6.5
Cal and Air Force employ two vastly different styles, but the contrast of Sonny Dykes’ bear-raid against Troy Calhoun’s take on the option isn’t the only stark difference between these two.
After securing its place in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game with a road win over Boise State, Air Force lost the regular-season finale to New Mexico, then lost a heartbreaker in the title game to San Diego State.
Cal struggled through the back-half of its schedule after ascending to the Top 25 by October, but salvaged the Pac-12 slate with a memorable rally against Arizona State.
Jared Goff, Cal’s only starting quarterback in the Dykes era and a potential first-round NFL draft pick, eviscerated the Arizona State defense for five touchdowns and 542 yards. If that was his last Pac-12 game, he certainly went out with flair.
Air Force’s pass defense has been statistically impressive this season, holding opponents to just 51 percent completions and garnering nearly as many interceptions (11) as touchdowns yielded (17). However, it is worth noting the Falcons saw three option opponents in Army, New Mexico and Navy. Michigan State’s Connor Cook is the only other shoo-in NFL draftee Air Force saw this season, and he hit the Falcons for four passing touchdowns.
Cal’s loaded corps of explosive wide receivers ensures points for the Golden Bears. The more telling sub-plot at work here is how a spotty Cal defense performs against a somewhat unpredictable Air Force offense.
Calhoun does a nice job mixing up play calls, best evident this season when the Falcons bombarded Boise State with nearly 300 passing yards. As the Golden Bears ready for Jacobi Owens and the triple-option, the threat of an aerial assault lingers.
Air Force can put up some points if need be, but a track meet better suits Cal.