TCU vs. Cal NCAAF Pick – Cheez-It Bowl

The Cheez-It Bowl, yes, the Cheez-It Bowl, features the Big 12 against the Pac- 12 on Boxing Day. Formerly the Cactus Bowl, which had a little better ring to it, pits the TCU Horned Frogs against the California Golden Bears. TCU won their last two games to barely get here, so if you look at it like that, it isn’t so bad that they’re playing in the Cheez-It Bowl. They had to beat Baylor and Oklahoma State in their final two games.

The most impressive was the 31-24 win over the Cowboys to close out the regular season. The Horned Frogs were losers in four of their previous five games before finding some momentum. TCU had some good wins and some bad losses. The same could be said for Cal, who came up big against some top teams, while slacking against inferior opponents.

If you haven’t been paying attention to college football for the last couple of years, these teams look a whole lot different than then. Before Justin Wilcox overtook the reigns at Cal, the Golden Bears were a mess defensively. They were getting gashed for nearly 50 points per game, with one of the worst defenses for several years. In just two years as the head coach, the Golden Bears have a physical, top-notch defense.

No longer do the Cal try to operate at a fast speed offensively. They prefer relying on the defense and controlling the ball on offense. Their defense doesn’t have to play on the field gassed anymore with Wilcox as the bench boss. TCU has typically had a decent defense under Gary Patterson, but it’s usually offense when you think of the Horned Frogs.

Not so much in 2018, with TCU cycling through three QB’s this season. There were major expectations on Shawn Robinson to be the next starter in TCU for years to come, but he struggled significantly early in the year and is now planning on transferring. They’ve gone through another two quarterbacks since then as they limp into the Cheez-It Bowl. Like Cal, look for TCU to lean on their defense on Thursday. Head below for our free TCU vs. Cal pick in the Cheez-It Bowl.

TCU Horned Frogs vs. Cal Golden Bears Cheez-It Bowl Betting Odds:


  • TCU +1(-115)
  • Cal -1(-105)


  • Over 39(-105)
  • Under 39(-115)

Betting odds provided by

TCU vs. Cal Pick:

Shawn Robinson went down in October, prompting him to receive surgery on his shoulder. He wasn’t looking too good before he went down, so it wasn’t much of a loss for TCU this season. He would have had a QB battle to deal with for next season and ultimately believes he has a better chance of starting at Missouri.

Kelly Bryant is transferring to Mizzou as well, so it doesn’t make much sense really. Michael Collins took over at QB for the Horned Frogs and he proceeded to throw 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His solid play led many to believe that Robinson is out as the No. 1 regardless of health.

Then Collins went down against Baylor and it was onto the next guy in line, Grayson Muelstein. Muelstein is a senior, though hasn’t gotten much playing time. This is awfully similar of when former senior Bram Kohlhausen had to start at quarterback against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

TCU erased a 31-point Oregon lead to win in overtime that year. This is actually the first action Muelstein has seen in his five years of college. He commanded the offense well against Oklahoma State, as he passed for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Cal is going to be a much more difficult test than Oklahoma State. Their defenses are on different levels. The Golden Bears are 20th with 250 yards allowed per game. They’ve played some good offenses as well, including Arizona, Washington, Washington State, and Stanford. They held those four teams to just 16 points per game. I don’t foresee them having any issues with Muelstein and the banged-up TCU offense.

The Golden Bears will have their starting quarterback for the Cheez-It Bowl, as Chase Garbers has gotten comfortable in his first season. Garbers has thrown 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, while doing what Wilcox wants him to do, limit the mistakes and allow the defense to win games. TCU holds the 38th best defense in the FBS, with 375 yards allowed per game.

The last bowl game for Cal was in 2015 against Air Force. It was the final game for Jared Goff in college and he went out big with a 55-36 win. The younger Wilcox is likely motivated to knock off a reputable coach like Gary Patterson in this one. Expect Muelstein to get overwhelmed against the best defense he’s seen between his high school and college career. This should be a hard hitting contest that is dominated by defense. I trust Garbers to make a few more plays than Muelstein here. I’d look at Cal here if you want to end your Boxing Day with a college football wager.

The Bet
CAL -1
Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of TheSportsGeek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at TheSportsGeek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, and horse racing. Prior to writing for TheSportsGeek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily only at TheSportsGeek.

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