- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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After spending bowl season at home in 2010, Texas is back in the postseason. The Longhorns will face the California Golden Bears in the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl. Here's a quick look at the matchup:
When: Dec. 28, 7 p.m. CT on ESPN
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Opponent record: 7-5, 4-5 in the Pac-12
History: Texas is 4-0 all-time against Cal with the last meeting coming in 1970. That season, Texas started its 10-1 season with a 56-15 win over the Bears. Texas was recognized as the No. 1 team by the UPI poll following the 1970 season.
Best player: While quarterback Zach Maynard has put up very respectable numbers -- 234 yards per game, 17 touchdowns against 11 interceptions -- the Cal offense has been at its most successful when running back Isi Sofele is productive. The junior rushed for 1,270 yards and nine touchdowns. While those numbers are solid, it is the 5.5 yards per rush that should concern Texas. That means Sofele does not go down easily and has the speed to break off a few big runs.
Sofele is more a product of the system than a break-out back. Cal has had nine 1,000-yard rushers in the past 10 seasons.
Biggest win: Cal saved its best for last when it traveled to Arizona State and grabbed a crucial win over the team that at one-time was considered the Pac-12 South favorite. The Bears piled up 484 yards of offense in the game. Maynard was 20-of-27 for 241 yards in the 47-38 win. Cal’s other three conference wins came against teams near the bottom of the Pac-12.
Biggest loss: Texas did something that Cal could not -- go into the Rose Bowl and get a win. In really what could be considered their only bad loss of the season, the Bears were blistered by UCLA, 31-14. Cal’s other four losses all came against bowl teams, with three of the four coming against Top 10 teams, Oregon, Stanford and USC. The other loss was at Washington.
Coaching matchup: Ever since Jeff Tedford moved from Oregon to Cal, the Bears have been one of the more dynamic offenses in the Pac-12. Tedford has long used multiple sets and relied on a strong-armed and intelligent quarterback to guide the offense. Tedford has had six quarterbacks he coached selected in the first round of the NFL Draft with the most successful being current Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
But his development of talent does not stop at the quarterback position. Tedford and Cal have also produced J.J. Arrington (2004), Marshawn Lynch (2006), DeSean Jackson (2007) and Jahvid Best (2009).
Stat to watch: While Tedford has been all about offense during his tenure at Cal, where the Bears have excelled this season is on defense. Cal is 26th nationally in defense allowing just 339 yards per game.
Clearly Texas has struggled offensively throughout the year and the Longhorns have not played a statistically strong defense in months. In fact, the only team Texas has played that has a defense ranked in the top 50 is BYU. The Longhorns won that game 17-16.
Randon thing to know: Texas president Bill Powers is a Cal grad and has a Bears jersey in his office.