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Christmas in Phoenix: TCU heading to Cheez-It Bowl for matchup with Pac-12 foe

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Here are the top four teams ranked by the College Football Playoff selection committee that will have a chance to play for the 2019 National Championship.

TCU’s football team is spending Christmas in Phoenix.

The Frogs will face Cal in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 26 at Chase Field. This will be the first meeting between the two schools.

TCU played in this bowl game once before in 2012 when it was the then-Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Michigan State beat TCU that year, 17-16.

It’s since changed title sponsors and venues. Chase Field, the home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, will convert into a football field yet again.

Chase Field hosted the game from 2000-05 and has been the home since the January 2016 edition. The playing surface will be natural grass. The D-backs are going to a synthetic grass next season, but it won’t be installed until after the bowl game.

“We’re very humbled and excited about being able to come West,” Patterson said. “We haven’t been there for a couple of years. We’ve been to the Buffalo Wild Wings before and we were at the Fiesta Bowl. And now to be at the Cheez‑It Bowl, we’re excited.

“I’ve been following this season the Cal Bears, and I understand how they’ve been playing and the kind of defense. They beat the champs ‑‑ that ended up being the champs of the Pac‑12, the Washington Huskies, during the season. So we understand what kind of opponent we’re getting into.”

CHEEZ-IT BOWL

Cal (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)

Chase Field, Phoenix

Dec. 26, 8 p.m., ESPN

The matchup: TCU didn’t look like a bowl team a few weeks ago. At 4-6 and facing must-win games against Baylor and Oklahoma State, the Frogs looked destined to be home for the holidays.

But Gary Patterson worked his defensive magic, holding Baylor to just nine points and Oklahoma State to 24. TCU won each game, doing so behind those gritty defensive efforts and third-string QB Grayson Muehlstein managing the offense.

Now, TCU faces a Cal team that endured similar struggles. Much like TCU, Cal endured a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season but also boasted impressive wins such as Washington and at USC.

“We both went through some struggles in the middle of the season, both probably for different reasons, and both have teams that have fought back,” Patterson said. “Ours, I’ve been really proud of the way they’ve fought back with the things that have happened to them. And so you get ready to go.”

Cal is coached by Justin Wilcox. Wilcox served as the Boise State defensive coordinator from 2006-09, a stretch in which TCU and Boise State met twice in bowl games (2008 Poinsettia Bowl, 2009 Fiesta Bowl).

“I’ve always watched from afar and the things they’ve done defensively, obviously, and then the things they’ve done offensively,” Wilcox said. “And Coach Patterson’s won a ton of games for a long, long time. So obviously it’s an exciting matchup.”

Did you know? TCU and Cal start a home-and-home series in 2020-21. The Frogs will play at Cal in 2020, and then host Cal at Amon G. Carter Stadium in 2021. ... Patterson is 6-0 in his career vs. Pac-12 opponents. ... The Horned Frogs are 16-16-1 in bowl games.

They said it: “I don’t know if any of us ‑‑ at least when you get to my age -- you have got to take a lot of baby aspirin when do you that.” -- Patterson on a grind-it-out matchup between two solid defenses

“I think we’re always just trying to ‑‑ all of us are trying to find a way to win, and however that happens. And some years your team is set up a certain way, maybe differently than other years, and you find a way to play to your strengths.” -- Wilcox

Local tie: Cal has a couple defensive standouts from the DFW area. Cornerback Josh Dayden is from Dallas Bishop Dunne, and had one interception and three pass breakups during the regular season. Outside linebacker Alex Funches is a Denton Ryan product who is tied for the team-lead with five sacks.

Tickets: TCU season-ticket holders and Frog Club members have until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to make ticket requests through the Horned Frogs Priority Points System. Requests can be made online at GoFrogs.com, calling 817-257-3764 or dropping by the Parrish Family Athletics Ticket Office in Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets may also be purchased through the bowl’s official website. Face value ranges from $35-140.

TCU athletics held its annual "Meet the Frogs" event on Saturday. Football players and coach Gary Patterson interacted with fans, as well as the volleyball and soccer teams.

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