Texas will start Ash at QB vs. Cal tonight

Published on Dec. 28 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.
Updated at 6:45 p.m. Eastern

By Brian Edwards

UPDATE: Texas head coach Mack Brown has announced that David Ash will start at quarterback. However, unless Ash comes out on fire, Case McCoy is also expected to see playing time. –B.E.

Gamblers have a pair of college football bowl games to wager on Wednesday starting at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. That’s when Toledo and Air Force will collide in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C.

As of early this morning, most betting shops were listing Toledo (8-4 straight up, 7-5 against the spread) as a three-point favorite with the total in the 70-71 range. Bettors can take Air Force (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS) to win outright for a plus-145 return (risk $100 to win $145).

I often talk about three major factors in bowl games – location, motivation and coaching changes. In this spot, we’ve got a Toledo squad dealing with the loss of head coach Tim Beckman, who has accepted the same post at Illinois. Beckman departed Dec. 9 and offensive coordinator Matt Campbell was tabbed as the interim head coach.

As for location, Air Force has to travel farthest with the trip to D.C. from Colorado, so that give Toledo as ever-so-slight advantage. But as for motivation, the Falcons probably have a small edge since they know they’re playing for a coach in Calhoun who will be back next season.

Air Force will be playing in a school-record fifth straight bowl game on Troy Calhoun’s watch. The Falcons have won back-to-back games and four of their last five, including a 45-21 win at Colorado St. as 14-point road favorites in their regular-season finale.

Tim Jefferson burned the Rams for 221 passing yards, completing 9-of-12 attempts for three touchdowns without an interception. Jefferson also rushed four times for 38 yards, while Asher Clark produced 113 yards and one touchdown on only 13 totes.

For the season, Jefferson has connected on 60.9-percent of his throws for 1,458 yards with a 12/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has rushed for 492 yards and 10 TDs. Clark leads Air Force in rushing with 1,096 yards, six TDs and a 7.3 yards-per-carry average. Mike DeWitt has rushed for 543 yards and 10 scores.

Air Force has the nation’s second-best ground attack, averaging 320.3 YPG. The Falcons will be facing a Toledo defense that ranks No. 23 in the country, surrendering just 123.1 YPG.

Toledo was a play or two away from going 11-1 this season. Three of its losses were one-possession games in which the Rockets had leads in the fourth quarter. The first was a 27-22 setback at Ohio St. They also fell 63-60 vs. No. Illinois and 33-30 at Syracuse in double overtime. The loss at the Carrier Dome was extremely controversial, as a Toledo PAT was inexplicably called no good in regulation.

The only convincing Toledo loss came against Boise St. by a 40-15 count, but the Rockets were extremely competitive in that game for three quarters.

Toledo sophomore quarterback Terrance Owens enjoyed a breakout campaign, especially late in the regular season. He threw nine touchdown passes in the last three games. For the year, Owens completed 71.3-percent of his passes for 1,812 yards with a 15/3 TD-INT ratio. He also rushed for 209 yards and one TD, averaging 5.2 YPC.

Senior RB Adonis Thomas leads the Rockets in rushing with 955 yards and 11 TDs, averaging 6.5 YPC. He also has 28 catches for 335 yards and one TD.

Toledo has been a single-digit favorite twice this year and failed to take the cash in both instances. Meanwhile, Air Force has gone 2-1 ATS in three underdog situations.

Toledo returned to the postseason for the first time since 2005 last year, dropping a 34-32 decision to FIU in the Little Caesar’s Bowl. The Falcons have won bowl games the last two seasons, beating Houston 47-20 and Ga. Tech 14-7 in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The ‘over’ is 9-3 overall for Air Force, but the ‘under’ has gone 3-2 in its last five games. The ‘over’ is 7-5 overall for Toledo, going 4-1 in its last five outings.

ESPN will have the telecast at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. The kickoff temperature is expected to be in the low-40s with winds of 10-20 miles per hour.

The second bowl game of the day will feature Texas and California in the Holiday Bowl. Most books are listing the Longhorns as 3 ½-point favorites with a total of 47 ½. The Bears are plus-150 on the money line.

Texas (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) lost three of its last four regular-season games both SU and ATS, including a 48-24 loss at Baylor as a 1 ½-point underdog. The lone win down the stretch came on Nov. 24 at Texas A&M, where UT rallied for a 27-25 win on a field goal at the gun.

Case McCoy threw for 356 yards and three TDs at Baylor, but he was intercepted four times. For the year, McCoy had seven TD passes and he had not been picked off prior to his 4-int performance against the Bears.

Since Foswhitt Whittaker went down with a season-ending injury, Malcolm Brown has been given a heavier load. Brown is averaging 4.4 YPC with 707 yards on 159 carries. He has five rushing TDs.

California (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) won three of its last four games, taking the money in all four of those contests. The Bears closed the regular season with a 47-38 win at Arizona St. as six-point underdogs. Their only loss during the stretch run was a 31-28 defeat at Stanford as 17-point ‘dogs.

Zach Maynard threw for 237 yards and one TD without being picked off against the Sun Devils. C.J. Anderson rushed for a pair of TDs, while junior RB Isi Sofele had 119 yards and one TD.

Maynard has a 17/11 TD-INT ratio. Sofele ran for an average of 141.3 YPG during Cal’s 4-0 ATS surge to close the regular season. Sofele had 1,266 rushing yards for the year.

Texas is 2-2 ATS in four single-digit ‘chalk’ spots, while California owns a 2-3 spread record in five underdog situations.

The ‘under’ is 6-5-1 overall for the Longhorns, going 3-1 in their last four contests. The ‘under’ is 7-5 overall for Cal, but the ‘over’ has hit in its last two games.

The Bears have had three totals in the 40s with the ‘over’ going 2-1. Likewise, the ‘over’ is 2-1 in the Longhorns’ three games that had totals in the 40s.

ESPN will provide television coverage at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–This is the first time Air Force and Toledo have ever faced each other in football.

–Texas senior strong safety Christian Scott is ‘out’ with a wrist injury.

–Cal is 5-2 in seven bowl games during Jeff Tedford’s 10-year tenure.

–North Carolina State held off a late Louisville rally last night to capture a 31-24 win as a two-point favorite in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. The 55 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 44-point total.

–Purdue won the Little Caesar’s Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit yesterday, beating Western Michigan by a 37-32 count as a 1 ½-point ‘chalk.’ The 69 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 63-point tally.

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