Momentum is rolling for both Cal and Texas Tech as they each prepare for the 2023 Independence Bowl betting matchup. The Golden Bears (6-6) finished the regular season with three straight wins while TTU (6-6) won three of their last four.
Oddsmakers have Texas Tech as -3.5 favorites for Saturday night’s (9:15 PM ET, ESPN) game in Shreveport, Louisiana. Both teams have stud running backs who will indeed participate in this game, so a focus is going to be on the ground game for each club (O/U 56.5). Public betting is split nearly right down the middle in a contest that looks fairly evenly matched.
Why Cal Has Value at +3.5
Neither the Golden Bears or Texas Tech have played in approximately three weeks, and Cal has had a much more positive break considering their last game was a 33-7 upset over UCLA on the road as +9 point underdogs. That result creates a much better practice environment than what Texas Tech has had following their 57-7 shellacking at Texas in the regular season finale.
The Golden Bears have much more than momentum, they have talent. Headlining the weapons for the Cal offense is RB Jaydn Ott, whose 1,261 yards rushing are 13th most in the nation. Ott had at least 150 rushing yards in three of his last five games this season, and TTU just gave up 302 yards on the ground on only 43 carries in their last contest vs. the Longhorns.
What makes the Cal offense special is that besides Ott, QB Fernando Mendoza is also playing at a high level down the stretch. Mendoza has multiple TD passes in six of his last seven, and has most of his targets available for 2023 Independence Bowl betting – unlike Texas Tech who is missing their top two receivers to the transfer portal.
Why Texas Tech Has Value at -3.5
Ott’s 1,261 yards rushing and 11 TDs for Cal are impressive – but he’s actually only the second best RB in this game. The Red Raiders’ Tahj Brooks announced he will play in the bowl game as well as return to Lubbock in 2024 following a 1,447 yard rushing campaign this season.
It’s a solid start to the Independence Bowl for Texas Tech that they can basically notch down a 100+ yard game from Brooks as a lock. Brooks has missed the 100 yard mark just twice this season, getting 98 yards against Kansas State and 95 against Texas (even while his team was eventually losing by 50).
Cal is decent vs. the run (39th) but only because they are so atrocious vs. the pass in giving up 283.3 ypg through the air. That helps ease the pain of QB Behren Morton losing six WRs and two TEs to the transfer portal. Morton completed over 76% of his passes in wins over TCU and Kansas over the final month of the regular season, so he knows the offense.
Free 2023 Independence Bowl Betting Pick
Texas Tech looked bad in their regular season finale vs. the Longhorns – but that’s also a Texas team playing in the College Football Playoff in a couple weeks. Each team has the benefit of relying on a workhorse RB in this matchup, but the Red Raiders missing so many key targets in the passing game is a concern.
Free Pick: Cal +6.5