This postseason game began in 2003 as the Fort Worth Bowl and was renamed the Armed Forces Bowl last season.
Air Force must be elated to be here in Troy Calhoun's first season as head coach, especially after being picked by the computer (Congrove Computer Rankings) and the conference media to finish in 7th place in the nine-team Mountain West Conference. Instead, the Falcons improved by 5 wins over last season and challenged for the conference title before finishing in sole possession of second place.
Meanwhile, California had much higher aspirations after rising as high as #2 in the polls, and up to #4 in the Congrove Computer Rankings. The Golden Bears dropped six of their final seven games to end the year with a #58 ranking, a 6-6 over-all record, and a conference mark of just 3-6. The regular season ended with an upset loss to Stanford in the 110th meeting between the two rivals.
In the preseason, the computer projected Cal to finish 3rd in the conference and 17th in the nation. The PAC-10 media saw them as the second-best team in the PAC-10.
Air Force is making its first trip to a bowl game since a 2002 loss to Virginia Tech in the Emerald Bowl.
California is making its' fifth consecutive postseason appearance but has yet to make it to a New Year's day game under Jeff Tedford who, nonetheless, has raised the program's stature immeasurably. Tedford is 49-26 in his six seasons at the helm. Before his arrival, the Bears had not been to a bowl game since 1996.
These teams last met in the 2004 season opener when Cal ran away with a 56-14 win at Air Force. The Golden Bears hold a 5-2 advantage in their previous meeting with the Falcons.
The option offense of Air Force ranks second in the nation with 298.5 yards per game, while Cal ranks 51st passing and 48th rushing.
Defensively, the smallish Falcons ranked 36th against the run and 57th against the pass. Cal ranks 58th against the run and 51st defending the pass.
Since injuring his ankle in a September 29 win at Oregon, QB Nate Longshore has seen his completion percentage fall and his TD-INT ration go the wrong way. Freshman Kevin Riley started the next game at Oregon State and played well until he suffered a brain freeze in the final seconds that prevented Cal from kicking the potential game-tying field goal. From there, Cal's season spiraled downward.
Tedford has already declared Longshore as his starting QB for the bowl game, though he may still not be at 100%.
That will force Cal to rely on RB Justin Forsett who had 1,403 yards rushing and 13 TD's. It will be a homecoming affair for Forsett who hails from Arlington, just ten minutes from Amon G. Carter Stadium on the TCU campus where the Armed Forces Bowl takes place.
Air Force is led offensively by Chad Hall who had 1,415 yards rushing and 488 yards receiving. Hall ranks 3rd nationally in all-purpose yards with 2,504 as he tacked on 425 yards in kick-off returns and 176 yards in punt returns.