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Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Holiday Bowl: Three keys for California

By Ted Miller

Three keys for California against Texas in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.

1. Maynard's mechanics: It's no coincidence that California played better when QB Zach Maynard rediscovered his accuracy. During the four-game stretch to end the season when the Bears won three and nearly upset rival Stanford, he completed 68 percent of his passes with five TDs and just one pick. The Bears won't be able to just run at this Texas defense, but the Longhorns also own one of the nation's best pass defenses. Maynard will need to be at his best, but -- most important -- he must protect the football.

2. Field position: Texas is good in the return game but bad at punting. Cal is bad in the return game but good at punting. In games in which the offenses are conservative and the defenses strong, field position is a major issue. Cal's chances go up if it's starting drives near midfield, while Texas finds itself starting on its 20. That hangs on big Bryan Anger punts either getting downed or forcing fair catches.

3. Isi and fronting the seven: It's hard to imagine Cal losing if it outrushes Texas, a team that is very limited passing the football. That means a solid Bears run defense will need to be at its best against a strong Texas rushing attack, and underrated Bears RB Isi Sofele needs to announce himself with authority. Sofele didn't get much attention this year, despite rushing for 1,270 yards, because the Pac-12 was loaded with elite running backs. He could make a statement that he merits attention in 2012 by hitting the 100-yard mark against a tough Longhorns defense.