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NY Post
New York Post
16 Dec 2023


NextImg:Cal vs. Texas Tech prediction: Independence Bowl odds, picks, best bets

A pair of 6-6 teams are set to face off as Cal and Texas Tech go head-to-head in the Independence Bowl on Saturday in Shreveport, LA.

The records are identical, but bowl games are about momentum and motivation, and these teams enter under differing circumstances.

Texas Tech is favored, but I’m betting Cal +3 and also sprinkling a bit on the Golden Bears’ moneyline (+125).

When it comes to motivation, Cal has a clear edge.

The Golden Bears won three in a row to finish the regular season and are seeking their first bowl win since 2019. Conversely, Texas Tech – a trendy preseason darkhorse pick to contend in the Big-12 – underwhelmed and lost by 50 (yes, 50!) in its regular-season finale against Texas.

Not only did Cal exceed expectations, but the Golden Bears have the added benefit of having their best player, sophomore running back Jaydn Ott, available for Saturday’s bowl game.

Ott, who rushed for 11 touchdowns this season, amassed 1,260 yards on the ground and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

Opt-outs are a big part of bowl season, so the fact that Cal will have Ott in the backfield along with starting quarterback Fernando Mendoza is a huge deal.

Fernando Mendoza #15 of the California Golden Bears celebrates with fans.

Fernando Mendoza #15 of the California Golden Bears celebrates with fans. Getty Images

The freshman Mendoza still shows his youth at times, but he did throw multiple touchdown passes in three straight games to end the regular season and will benefit from the additional bowl practices.

Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital left Cal to take the OC job at Baylor, but the Golden Bears have since promoted offensive line coach Mike Bloesch.

Bloesch previously served as North Texas’ offensive coordinator, so there shouldn’t be too much of a learning curve for him in terms of game-day operations.

Additionally, Bloesch served as Cal’s run-game coordinator, and given that the rushing attack was a team strength, there shouldn’t be too much of an offensive dropoff.

On the other side, opt-outs leave Texas Tech in a tough spot.

The Red Raiders will be without a pair of starting receivers, their starting left tackle, a second-team guard and a backup tackle.

Texas Tech will be without Jaylon Hutchings.

Texas Tech will be without Jaylon Hutchings. Getty Images

The Red Raiders will also be without defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings, who underwent knee surgery after the regular season.

His absence will hamper the defense’s ability to slow Cal’s rushing attack, which averaged 181.1 ground yards per game this season.

Cal’s defense, which surrendered 32 points per game, is certainly a weakness, but opt-outs have decimated Texas Tech’s offensive line.

Not only is Cal likely more motivated to win this game, but the Golden Bears should also be able to run the ball consistently and dictate the pace.

Pick: Cal + 3