Ryan Mayer

The day after Christmas is usually a day for recovering from a long day of hanging out with family and friends. That makes it the perfect day to take in some college football bowl action. In this case, you’re in luck because there are several bowls in play. One of them, the newly named Cheez-It Bowl, features two of the nation’s best defenses going at it.

Spread: Cal -1

Over/Under: 39.5

The Golden Bears improved to 7-5 in year 2 under Justin Wilcox, thanks to a defense that suffocated opponents throughout the season. The unit was good both in efficiency (37.5% Success Rate) and explosiveness (1.01 IsoPPP), but they did struggle in stopping opponents once they got into third-and-short situations. On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears didn’t find much success with either of their quarterbacks. Chase Garbers was the starter for most of the year, and he finished with just over 1,400 yards passing and 14 TDs with seven interceptions. Running back Patrick Laird was effective, coming up just short of 1,000 yards while averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

The Horned Frogs also struggled to find a rhythm offensively this season, cycling through a couple of quarterbacks and running backs throughout the year. With Shawn Robinson (shoulder) out and Michael Collins (foot) questionable for this game, Gary Patterson may have to turn to senior Grayson Muehlstein in this one. The good news is Muehlstein filled in capably in the final two games of the season, wins over Baylor and Oklahoma State. The bad news? He has thrown just 43 passes in his four-year career. But, like the Bears, while the offense is iffy, the defense is strong for TCU. Despite playing in the offense-heavy Big 12, they managed to finish in the top 25 of the defensive S&P+ ratings, checking in at number 23.

Neither team was particularly good against the spread this season, but that doesn’t matter a ton here. As you can tell from the line, this game is considered to be a pick’em, so you go with whichever team you think is going to pull out the win. With TCU down to their third QB, I’ll roll with the team that has their starter. But, definitely on the under. Cal -1; Under 39.5

Local Expert Take: Bill Jones, CBS 11 Sports Anchor

“TCU finished the season strong earning bowl eligibility in its final game. Coach P should take advantage of the extra practice time. Defense wins bowl games, Horned Frogs over Golden Bears, 27-20.”