Bowl season is getting started with a bang. Shreveport, Louisiana will be the site of an extremely interesting early bowl matchup between the California Golden Bears and the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Independence Bowl on Saturday (12/16/23). Get California vs. Texas Tech odds, picks and predictions below. Our best bet is Cal on the moneyline at +125 odds.
California vs. Texas Tech Prediction
One of the toughest parts of making bowl picks, considering the prevalence of transfers and NFL Draft decisions keeping key players out of bowls, is gauging motivation. Sure, one team might have been clearly better than the other all season, or they might provide a specific mismatch. But will those trends play out based on the players who will actually be participating?
These two teams are interesting. Nobody has announced a draft-related opt-out, but a whopping 13 players have hit the portal thus far, with the count more or less distributed equally. Texas Tech’s losses are generally players with higher snap counts, so Cal will likely be less pressed for available players. The good news for the Red Raiders is that while their star running back Tahj Brooks is heading to the NFL Draft, coach Joey McGuire said he expects him to play.
Cal’s Jaydn Ott is also expected to play, meaning two of the nation’s top-13 rushers in terms of total yardage will be on display. With plenty of defensive transfers affecting the depth of both sides, both Ott and Brooks could be in for really big days, especially considering the mediocrity of both run defenses this season, even at full strength.
These two stars should be key in determining the outcome, as the performance of stars becomes even more important when some of the key contributors that usually surround them are unavailable. Each has had phenomenal finishes to the season, so we know they’re both up to the task.
Ott ran for 417 yards across a season-ending three-game win streak to clinch bowl eligibility for the Golden Bears, including a huge rivalry win over Stanford and an upset against UCLA and their tough defense. Meanwhile, Brooks accumulated 461 ground yards of his own in Tech’s three-game win streak before he was a bit less prolific, but still impressive, against a great Texas front seven in a loss to wrap up the regular season.
After a 4-8 campaign a year ago, Cal needs this one more. Tech actually took a bit of a step back this year, as it went 8-5 with a bowl win a season ago. So it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be more motivated than a squad who hasn’t won or even been to a bowl since 2019. This could be a tremendous moment for embattled head coach Justin Wilcox, and in a game seen as essentially level by most metrics, we’ll take Cal on the moneyline. Look for at least a flat +3 if you’d prefer a spread play, but at the current number, we’ll stick with a wager on the Golden Bears to pull off the slight upset.
California vs. Texas Tech Prediction: California ML (+125)
California vs. Texas Tech Best Odds
This is viewed by oddsmakers as a very close matchup with a spread of just 2.5 points favoring Texas Tech, while the moneyline for the Red Raiders is set at -150. Cal is +125 to win, while the total is set at 57.5.
California vs. Texas Tech Key Matchups
The biggest challenge for each team in this matchup will be slowing down their opponent’s prolific run game. Let’s see who has the better chance of accomplishing that tall task.
Texas Tech Rushing Offense vs. California Ground Defense
With Tech missing two of their top receivers, the emphasis on the run game is only going to be greater, but starting left tackle Monroe Mills is hitting the transfer portal and will be unavailable. However, he isn’t nearly the team’s top run blocker. That would be guard Cole Spencer, as per PFF’s grading system. Brooks, who has rushed for 1,443 yards this year, the fourth-most in the country, should still be able to have a great day, and keep up with his pace of 5.4 yards per carry.
Tech’s ground offense has been really efficient, due in large part to Brooks’s great play, ranking 13th in EPA per play. The Red Raiders are going up against a Cal ground defense that has been dead average by the same metric. Linebacker Kaleb Elarms-Orr will be a loss in that department, another transfer portal entrant, but he hasn’t had a great year. D-lineman duo Derek Wilkins and Ricky Correia will do most of the heavy lifting in dealing with Brooks.
California Rushing Offense vs. Texas Tech Ground Defense
The only major contributors to Cal’s offense who will be heading out in the portal are quarterbacks Ben Finley and Sam Jackson. Fernando Mendoza is still around, and he started for more than half the season. There should be no issues with the Golden Bears on that side of the ball. Either way, the offense will center around Ott, as it has all year. Cal’s air offense is 83rd in EPA, while their ground game is top-50. Ott is by far the team’s leading rusher with 1,260 yards and 11 scores, at an impressive rate of 5.5 per carry.
Conversely, Tech’s defense is top-50 against the pass by EPA, but barely top-100 against the run. That’s going to be a problem with Ott on the other side. Luckily for them, all of their outgoing transfers thus far are offensive, so guys like key linebacker Ben Roberts will still be available to help out.