Posted: Tuesday December 20, 2005 3:30PM; Updated: Tuesday December 20, 2005 3:30PM
Bowl Breakdown: Las Vegas
BYU (6-5) vs. Cal (7-4)
Dec. 22, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Sam Boyd Stadium (40,000)
SI.com's Cory McCartney analyzes the matchup.
Breaking down BYU
Marshawn Lynch powered Cal's 10th-ranked rushing attack with six 100-yard games.
The Cougars are all about quarterback John Beck and the passing game. BYU loves to spread the ball around, lining up as many as five wide receivers. That has enabled Beck to throw for 3,357 yards and 24 touchdowns in an attack that's ranked eighth in the nation, averaging 306.3 yards a game. The Cougars have six receivers with more than 200 yards, led by JohnnyHartline's 780 yards and four touchdowns.
While BYU loves to throw, running the ball effectively has been a key to victory. BYU is 5-1 when junior running back Curtis Brown has rushed for at least 100 yards. Defensively, the Cougars pride themselves on stopping the run. But they are susceptible to the pass, as their pass defense is ranked 105th in the nation.
Breaking down Cal
With Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, the Golden Bears have a serious one-two punch at running back. Lynch leads the nation's 10th-ranked rushing attack with 1,047 yards, while Forsett has 962. Forsett needs 38 yards to put Cal alongside this year's USC backfield as the only Pac-10 teams to have two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.
Inconsistently at quarterback has been Cal's problem this season. Joe Ayoob won his first four starts, but struggled in his last four outings, all losses. Steve Levy made his first start in the Big Game against Stanford, and though he wasn't overly impressive, he did lead Cal to the win and gets the start in Las Vegas. But Nate Longshore, who broke his leg in the season-opener, is practicing and could be available.
Cal had its issues against Texas Tech in last year's Holiday Bowl, getting burned for 520 passing yards, and BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae just happened to be an assistant on that Red Raiders team. But this one boils down to BYU bottling up Lynch and Forsett -- and that isn't going to happen.