SportsPac12: Cal-TCU Cheez-It Bowl Prediction and Preview
— Featured Articles from our SportsPac12 Writers —

Cal-TCU Cheez-It Bowl Prediction and Preview

December 25, 2018

The Cal-TCU Cheez-It Bowl betting line remains a pick 'em.

California vs. TCU: Cheez-It Bowl Details, Prediction, and Preview


California (7-5, 4-5) vs TCU (6-6, 4-5)
Wednesday, December 28, 6:00 p.m. PT, ESPN
Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ

Straight-Up: California in a Close Win
Against the Spread: California  (Pick 'Em)

It might be more charitable to dub this the Stout Defense Bowl than the Struggling Offenses Bowl, but either name works well enough. 

Cal's defense is allowing just 21.3 points per game under defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, and has shut down nearly every team it played, save for Oregon and UCLA. In their most ideal outcome of the season, the Bears held Washington to just 10 points, needing only 12 to seal the victory. TCU doesn't allow much more, giving up 24.4 points per contest.

Offensively, the Bears never found the consistency they sought at quarterback from either Chase Gabers or Brandon MacIlwain. The pair combined for the Pac-12's worst passing offense at 188.1 yards per game. And that problem was compounded recently when Vic Wharton III, Cal's leading receiver with 50 catches for 501 yards, left the team in advance of the bowl game. Patrick Laird carried much of the load this season, rushing for 932 yards and five touchdowns, but there's only so much he can do. 

TCU hasn't fared much better, having played most of the season with their third-string quarterback, Grayson Muehlstein. To make matters worse, they'll be without their top running back, Darius Anderson, on Wednesday. As with Cal, the less points the Frogs need, the better: They won three games by scoring only 17 points or fewer.

Neither team has performed well against the spread, particularly in neutral-site games. Look for Cal to limit the injury-racked Frogs just enough to win.

Trends Against the Spread

  • Cal is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games on grass
  • Cal is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games overall
  • Cal is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games in December
  • Cal is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 neutral site games
  • TCU is 7-19 ATS in its last 26 games on grass
  • TCU is 3-10 ATS in its last 13 neutral site games
  • TCU is 2-7 ATS in its last 9 bowl games
  • TCU is 0-4 ATS in its last 4 games in December

Notes: This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams. The Horned Frogs are 6-0 against Pac-12 opponents under head coach Gary Patterson, including a 39-37 win over Stanford in last year's Alamo Bowl.

Cal is bowl eligible for the first time since 2015. The Bears are making their third appearance in the Cheez-It Bowl, which began as the Copper Bowl in 1989 and later operated under nine other names, including the Insight Bowl and Cactus Bowl. Cal defeated Wyoming 17-15 in the 1990 Copper Bowl, and beat Virginia Tech 52-49 in the 2003 Insight Bowl. 

The Bears led the Pac-12 with 24 takeaways: seven fumble recoveries and Conference-leading 17 interceptions, five of which were returned for a touchdown. The Frogs are playing in their 16th bowl in 18 years under head coach Gary Patterson. 

Pac-12 NorthConferenceBig-12
NRCFP Committee RankingNR
22.8Points per Game24.7
21.3Points Allowed24.4
350Yards per Game375
188.1Passing Yards per Game226.8
162.1Rushing Yards per Game147.8
319Yards Allowed per Game344
187.1Passing Yards Allowed per Game202.6
132.3Rushing Yards Allowed per Game141.8
Chase Garbers
1,413 yards (14 TDS, 7 INTS)
Passing Yardage and TD LeadersShawn Robinson
1,334 yards (9 TDs, 8 INTs)
Patrick Laird
932 yards, 5 TDs
Rushing LeadersDarius Anderson
598 yards, 3 TDs
Vic Wharton III
502 yards, 1 TDs
Receiving LeadersJalen Raegor
1,061 yards, 9 TDs
Evan Weaver
141 total tackles
Defensive LeadersArico Evans
75 total tackles

Remaining Pac-12 Bowl Game Schedule

—Wednesday, December 26—
Cheez-It: California vs. TCU

—Friday, December 28—
Alamo: Washington State vs. Iowa State

—Monday, December 31—
Sun: Stanford vs Pitt
Redbox: Oregon vs. Michigan State
Holiday: Utah vs. Northwestern

—Tuesday, January 1—
Rose: Washington vs. Ohio State