California faces TCU in Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix
Line: Cal by 1.
Series Record: First meeting.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Cal is looking for its first bowl win in its second season under coach Justin Wilcox after becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2015. TCU had to win its final regular-season game just to become bowl eligible and is vying for its 10th win in its last 13 bowl games under coach Gary Patterson.
Cal’s defense vs. TCU QB Grayson Muehlstein. The Bears have one of the nation’s best defenses, led by linebackers Evan Weaver and Jordan Kunaszyk. The duo set a school record for combined tackles with 276 and have 8.5 sacks between them. The Horned Frogs will need to find a way to protect Muehlstein, who became the starter in their next-to-last regular-season game after injuries to Shawn Robinson and Mike Collins.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cal: RB Patrick Laird. The Bears’ offense has struggled at times this season, but Laird has not. Cal’s senior running back needs 68 yards against TCU to become the third player in school history to run for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons. He had 1,127 a year ago.
TCU: WR Jalen Reagor. Like Cal, the Horned Frogs have had their share of offensive difficulties. Reagor has been the consistent bright spot, catching 72 passes for 1,061 yards and nine TDs, including at least one in a school-record seven straight games. He also became the first receiver in Big 12 history to eclipse 100 yards rushing and 90 receiving with 121 and 81 in a win over Oklahoma State.
FACTS & FIGURES
TCU is bowl eligible for the 16th time in 18 seasons under Patterson. … Weaver had 143 tackles, fourth most in school history. … Cal’s Chase Garbers threw for 1,413 yards and 14 TDs with seven interceptions while completing 61 percent of his passes during the regular season. … Cal and TCU have a home-and-home series scheduled for 2020 and 2021. … TCU lost four offensive linemen to the NFL from last year’s team but was tied for 14th nationally with 14 sacks allowed. … Cal was tied for fourth in the FBS with five defensive touchdowns.