NCAA Football: California Golden Bears vs. TCU Horned Frogs Preview, Prediction & Odds - Sept. 11, 2021

by Chuck Sommers

of Game time: 3:30 p.m. ET, Sept. 11, 2021
Venue: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Where to watch: ESPNU

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks

DraftKings: TCU -11.5; O/U 48; TCU -440, Cal +340
BetMGM: TCU -10.5; O/U 48; TCU -370, Cal +280
Caesars: TCU -11.5; O/U 48; TCU -440, Cal +340

Season record
Cal: 0-1
TCU: 1-0

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Cal - TCU preview and analysis

Recent form
Cal: lost 22-17 vs. Nevada-Reno on Sept. 4
TCU: won 45-3 vs. Duquesne on Sept. 4

You couldn’t ask for a better gameplan from the California Golden Bears last week. Unfortunately, Carson Strong showed why he’s a top quarterback prospect in the country.

Despite a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Cal couldn’t hold the Nevada Wolf Pack down for long, losing 22-17 in the rarefied chance of the home-dog upset.

Now the Pac-12 folks from Berkeley must go on the road to Fort Worth, which has never been an easy place to play, to face the TCU Horned Frogs after they picked up a 45-3 season-opening win over Duquesne last week.

The last time these teams played each other, it was in the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl. While the victor probably didn’t get a giant bowl of Cheez-Its, the fans should’ve got something in return for watching a 10-7 game featuring programs known for high-powered offenses.

And you’d like to think the Bears would be able to learn from last week and improve offensively; but there’s not much you can learn from when you score 14 points on your first two drives, then are held to three points and 195 total yards the rest of the game.

This won’t be a game that will test TCU’s defense, which has proven over the years to be a strong unit under head coach Gary Patterson. The Frogs held Duquesne to three points, and that included playing 12-minute quarters in the second half. Duquesne had 137 total yards and turned it over twice.

Quarterback Max Duggan had 207 passing yards and two total touchdowns before being pulled in the second half. Four of the Frogs’ touchdowns came on the ground, one from top running back Kendre Miller (54 yards on eight carries). If Cal’s run defense can travel (61 from the Wolf Pack), and force Duggan to beat them, there may be a chance.

But after how that offense fell flat last week, expecting the Bears to go to TCU and play a better game is too much to ask.


TCU is 6-2-1 against the spread since 2018 in non-conference action. Although the overall season success hasn’t been there as of late, Patterson’s teams always tend to make things tough on those coming to Fort Worth. Cal had its chance to come into this week riding high on momentum, but then Chase Garbers’ 4.7 yards per attempt jumps out (and still threw an interception), and you realize there’s no point. TCU wins by at least a couple touchdowns and covers.

Betting trends

When a road underdog between 10.5 to 14 points, the Golden Bears are 13-3 against the spread in the last 16 instances.

The over is 7-1 in the Horned Frogs' last eight games against Pac-12 opponents.

Players to watch

Cal: Garbers’ 177 yards on 38 attempts should give way for Cal to run the ball more. Running back Damien Moore had 79 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.

TCU: Ochaun Mathis is TCU’s top pass rusher and he had the lone sack for the Frogs against the Dukes. If this Cal passing game is too rattled, it could be a big day for Mathis.

Statistical leaders

Passing: Chase Garbers -- 177 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Damien Moore -- 79 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Jeremiah Hunter -- 35 yards
Defense: JH Tevis -- 6 tackles

Passing: Max Duggan -- 207 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kendre Miller -- 54 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Derius Davis -- 57 yards
Defense: Dee Winters -- 7 tackles

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Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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