Mack Brown said it best:
"It's better to be 8-5 than 7-6. It looks better, smells better, tastes better."
So what does Texas need to do to avoid its fourth loss in five games? A couple things.
The most important is to establish that power-running game of newly healthy Malcolm Brown (turf toe, knee) and Joe Bergeron (hamstring). If those guys can bust open Cal's defense right from the start, it'll give Texas' young quarterbacks an early vote of confidence.
Despite his injuries, Brown has racked up 707 rushing yards in nine games played, including 41 yards after contact. Bergeron has 454 yards in 10 games, including his 191-yard, three-touchdown performance against Texas Tech.
Second thing the Longhorns need to do is contain Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen, who has 89 catches for 1,261 yards and six touchdowns on the regular season. Though they're young, Texas has some of the best cornerbacks in the Big 12 in Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs who will accept that challenge.
"He's as good as anybody," Mack Brown said of Allen. "He is the caliber of guys we see in the Big 12. He can change a game."
Texas boasts the Big 12's No. 1 defense and is more than capable of shutting down Cal's pro-style offense led by quarterback Zach Maynard and running back Isi Sofele, who's rushed for 1,270 yards and averages 105 per game.
"He has tremendous vision, patience and power," Brown said. "Shorter backs (Sofele is 5-foot-8, 180 lbs.) are much harder to tackle because they're thick and get lots of yards after contact."
The game could also come down to turnovers and big plays. In the Longhorns last outing against Baylor, Case McCoy threw four interceptions and Texas turned the ball over five times. They'll need to play it safe and not get too crazy in the play calling.
This is the majority of the team's first bowl game and nerves mixed with youth on a national stage can lead to costly mistakes.
"We're not on a championship run here," Brown said. "We're a team that's trying to win. Trying to find ways to win and right now, we're a team that has to do things right to win."
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