The 13th Armed Forces Bowl pits two contrasting offensive styles between teams as different as Justin Bieber and Willie Nelson.
California travels from Berkeley as owners of one of college football’s top spread offenses run by one of the country’s best quarterbacks, Jared Goff, who caught the keen eye of NFL scouts years ago.
Air Force, meanwhile, is one of the nation’s top rushing teams, running its version of the famed Triple Option.
The two will meet at 1 p.m. Dec. 29 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
“Jared Goff is as talented a quarterback as you’ll see in college football,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said Sunday night during a conference call. “You can see why. The production in the passing game is unlike anybody in college football.”
The game is a rematch of the memorable 2007 game. Cal rallied from a 21-0 down for a 42-36 victory over the Falcons in Calhoun’s first season.
The Golden Bears, one of four Pac-12 teams to land in Texas for bowl season, were an at-large selection after the Big Ten, which has an affiliation with the game, failed to qualify enough bowl-eligible teams.
A victory would ensure Cal (7-5) its first eight-win season since 2009. Air Force (8-5) is coming off a loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference championship game.
An eight-win season would represent quite a turnaround since Goff’s freshman season in 2013. Under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, Cal went 1-11. The Bears just missed bowl eligibility a year ago, going 5-7.
Goff, the Pac-12’s first-team all-conference quarterback, has rewritten the school’s passing record book. In three seasons, the California native, expected to be one of the first two QBs drafted by the NFL in May, has passed for almost 12,000 yards and 90 touchdowns.
“It was obviously awful,” Goff said of that first season. “It was a rebuilding year. Last year being so close … that was probably a little bit more painful. This year has been so much better and … if we win eight games this year it will definitely be a success.”
The game is a homecoming for Dykes, the West Texas-raised son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes. Sonny Dykes graduated from Tech and returned to coach there under Mike Leach.
After a stint as offensive coordinator at Arizona, Dykes left for Louisiana Tech for his first heading coaching job.
Currently, he’s the focus of a bit of controversy over stalled negotiations of a contract extension. He has an offerfrom Cal, but he has yet to sign. Meanwhile, he has interviewed, though wasn’t hired, for coaching vacancies at Missouri and Virginia.
He was also linked to the vacancy at South Carolina.
Cal athletic director Mike Williams reiterated Sunday that the school wants Dykes — who wasn’t available Sunday — to return.
“He has talked to us,” Goff said, referring to Dykes about the contract situation, “but that’s between us and him.”
Air Force’s roster includes 17 players from Texas, including former Aledo quarterback Pate Davis, a backup to Karson Roberts of Houston.
“You aren’t going to find a more patriotic state,” Calhoun said. “You combine that with really strong school academics in an area where they love their football … it’s a pretty good fit for us.”
Heart of Dallas Bowl
Washington (6-6) and Southern Miss (9-4) are set to meet in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Dec. 26 at the Cotton Bowl. Kickoff will be at 1:20 p.m.
The matchup features the most frugal scoring defense in the Pac-12 against the No. 2-ranked scoring offense in Conference USA.
Armed Forces Bowl
Air Force (8-5) vs. California (7-5)
1 p.m. Dec. 29, Fort Worth