Fanpicks.com College Bowl Preview
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Fanpicks.com previews the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in which Air Force plays against California. Our prediction is that California will take the game 30 points to Air Force 24 points. Play fantasy college football today at fanpicks.com
Two teams with very different offensive styles meet Dec. 29 as Air Force takes on California in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. Air Force’s ground game ranks third nationally with 321.8 rushing yards per game, while Cal boasts an explosive aerial attack led by junior quarterback Jared Goff, who broke his own single-season school records for passing yards and touchdowns. The teams are meeting for the first time since the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl, when the Golden Bears overcame a 21-point deficit and escaped with a 42-36 victory.
Cal won two of its final three games to secure its first postseason appearance since 2011, while Air Force won five straight to clinch the Mountain West Mountain Division title but fell 27-24 to San Diego State in the conference championship game. The Falcons’ triple-option offense has received a boost from tailback Jacobi Owens, who started the final seven games and rushed for a season-best 156 yards against San Diego State. The Golden Bears also will need to keep a close eye on senior quarterback Karson Roberts, who has rushed for nine touchdowns and thrown for nine others.
All five of Air Force’s losses came away from home this season, but it should have solid backing in Fort Worth, which is less than a 12-hour drive from Colorado Springs. Safety Weston Steelhammer recorded a team-high 80 tackles and five interceptions as well as 10.5 tackles for loss and seven pass breakups to lead the Falcons, who ranked third in the Mountain West in scoring defense at 23.2 points per game. Steelhammer will need another strong effort against the Golden Bears, who closed the regular season with a 48-46 home win over Arizona State.
California Season Overview (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12): Linebacker Hardy Nickerson recorded a team-high 101 tackles for the Golden Bears, who will be hard-pressed to slow down the Falcons’ running game after ranking 11th in the Pac-12 with 203.5 rushing yards allowed per game. Running back Daniel Lasco, wide receiver Kenny Lawler and safety Damariay Drew each battled injuries late in the regular season, but all three starters should be available against Air Force. Goff, who is expected to bypass his senior year and declare for the NFL draft, has thrown for a school-record 90 career touchdowns and had 4,252 passing yards and 37 TDs against 13 interceptions this season.
Air Force Season Overview (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West): The Falcons’ run-oriented offense is engineered by Roberts, who averaged 111.2 rushing yards and was sacked only twice all season.
Senior defensive end Alex Hansen earned First-Team All-Mountain West honors with 7.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, but the defense allowed an average of 33 points over the last four games. The Falcons’ secondary was impressive in wins over Fresno State and Hawaii but struggled against a top-rated quarterback on Sept. 19, when Michigan State’s Connor Cook threw for 247 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-21 victory.