2011 Holiday Bowl California vs Texas Odds, Free Picks and Predictions on ESPN 12/28/11

Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: California vs Texas 2011 Holiday Bowl Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 12/28/11: The football programs at California and Texas are used to being among the elite in the country, but that hasn’t exactly been the case the last few years for either team. The trend continued this season, and instead of playing in a BCS bowl, the Golden Bears (7-5) and the 24th-ranked Longhorns (7-5) will meet Wednesday night in the Holiday Bowl. Unfortunately for both schools, it is much easier to slip from the ranks of the country’s elite than to return to prominence in the competitive landscape that currently exists. That being said, a postseason victory is always a nice way to build momentum heading into the offseason.  Mack Brown’s Texas team is a three-point favorite in this matchup.

While both teams want to end the year on a high note, California has to have plenty of confidence entering the showdown with Texas. The Golden Bears won three of their last four games and came within three points of upsetting Stanford. Meanwhile, the Longhorns lost three of their last four games and ended the season with an ugly 48-24 loss to Baylor that saw Bears’ quarterback Robert Griffin III clinch himself a Heisman Trophy. It is safe to say that California is playing the best football of the season entering this meeting, while Texas is playing its worst.

For the Longhorns, the main issue all season has been poor quarterback play. Granted, Texas fans were a little spoiled by Vince Young and Colt McCoy, but Garrett Gilbert was supposed to pick up where the two greats left off. Instead, he transferred after a few rough outings, forcing David Ash and Case McCoy into early action. The two combined for just 10 touchdown passes this year compared to 12 interceptions. McCoy was arguably the better of the two, but he closed the year with a five-turnover disaster against Baylor. It’s anybody’s guess which player will get the call in the ball game, and more importantly, it may not even matter.

The Golden Bears haven’t had to worry about who to start under center. Junior Zach Maynard has had a solid year, throwing 17 touchdowns and rushing for four scores as well. Maynard got more comfortable running the offense as the year progressed, and in the final three games of the season, he accounted for six total touchdowns and just one turnover. He also completed at least 68 percent of his passes in all three starts. The Longhorns’ secondary has been exposed throughout the year, and Maynard will get a chance to connect on some big plays.

Although Texas has struggled against the pass, the Longhorns’ rush defense has been top notch. In fact, Texas had the top-rated defense in the Big 12 this season. The unit is helped by the Longhorns’ power running game, which allows Texas to control the clock. Freshman running back Malcolm Brown lived up to his hype, leading the team in rushing this year. If Brown and the Texas offense can run the ball effectively and control the tempo Wednesday, the Longhorns’ chances of winning increase dramatically.

In the end, the momentum that California brings into the matchup is tough to overlook. Texas probably has the better talent on both sides of the ball, but the Longhorns have underachieved this season, losing all their big games and collapsing down the stretch. With the Golden Bears finding their stride late in the year, they have a perfect opportunity to upset a Texas team that is still searching for an identity and a leader on offense.

Prediction: California Golden Bears (+3) Cover the Spread

Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: California +3 to cover the spread

Poinsettia Bowl: California vs Texas
Date: 12/28/11
Time: 8 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds Favorite: Texas -3 Total: Over/Under 48

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