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Holiday Bowl Preview

December 28, 2006

College Football - Texas A&M Aggies vs. California Golden Bears (3, 53) 8:00 PM EST

There are question marks over the defensive capabilities of both these teams, but no one is doubting they can put points on the board. The Aggies and the Golden Bears both have fine offenses and the ability to post big scores if allowed to dictate their terms.

California is ranked 20th in the nation, and is a three point favorite against Texas A&M, who finished just behind them at 21st. Both teams have 9-3 records, but A&M could have easily improved on that, losing their three games by a combined total of just six points.

California looked destined for a more prestigious Bowl berth after winning straight eight games. But late losses to Arizona (24-20) and Southern California (23-9) in consecutive weeks threatened to derail their season.

The Golden Bears salvaged their year in the final game, beating Stanford, 26-17. With USC losing its final game, the Bears shared the Pac-10 title, the first time they have achieved that feat in 21 years.

Making their fourth straight Bowl appearance, the longest run in their history, the Bears believe this team is the equal of any the school has produced.

California entered the record books this campaign by producing both the Pac-10 offensive and defensive player of the year, and they shape up as a dangerous duo tonight.

Running back, Marshawn Lynch was the driving force behind one of the best offenses in the nation, scoring 13 touchdowns to lead the Pac-10. His 1,245 rushing and 311 receiving yards clearly underline the problems he will pose for A&M tonight.

Cornerback Daymeion Hughes was a tower of strength on defense for the Golden Bears, coming up with eight interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 67 tackles and 11 pass breakups.

However, Hughes lacked support from his teammates, with California conceding a worrying 367.7 yards per game in total defense, putting them way down the list at 90th in the nation.

Aggies coach, Dennis Franchione will point out to his players that Lynch faltered late in the season, rushing for less than 90 yards in three of his last four games. There are rumors that Lynch is considering leaving for the NFL next season, and that prospect may be distracting him in the lead-up to tonight's game.

The Aggies defense will put the pressure on California quarterback Nathan Longshore, who has looked vulnerable in tight situations during the season. While Longshore threw for 23 touchdowns, he also had 12 interceptions.

Texas A&M boasts an offense capable of matching points with the Golden Bears. The Aggies averaged an impressive 410 total yards per game, with massive running back Jorvorskie Lane powering his way into the end-zone 19 times.

Summing Up: An entertaining clash looms, but California appears to have slightly more balance in their attack and deserve to be favored against a team that has lost five of its last six Bowl appearances.

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