UCF v Texas Tech
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Texas Tech will meet Cal in the Independence Bowl on Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana, in the night cap of the first day of Bowl Season festivities. This will mark the second all-time meeting between the programs and first since the Red Raiders upset an Aaron Rodgers-led Cal team in the 2004 Holiday Bowl.

The Bears are back in a bowl for the first time since 2019 after three consecutive losing seasons under coach Justin Wilcox. Cal was in danger of extending that streak to four before rattling off wins over Washington State, Stanford and UCLA to close out the regular season. The 33-7 win on Nov. 25 over UCLA marked the final regular-season game of the Pac-12 era before the league splits up amid conference realignment.

After getting off a 1-3 start to the season that included close losses to Wyoming and West Virginia, Texas Tech followed a similar trajectory as Cal to qualify for its third straight bowl game. The Red Raiders closed the season with wins over TCU, Kansas and UCF to reach the six-win mark before falling to in-state rival Texas in the finale. 

How to watch Independence Bowl live

Date: Saturday, Dec. 16 | Time: 9:15 p.m. ET
Location: Independence Stadium -- Shreveport, Louisiana
TV: ESPN | Live stream: Fubo (Try for free)
For a limited time, new subscribers can save $20 on Fubo's Pro, Elite and Premier plans.

Texas Tech vs. Cal Need to know

Fernando Mendoza's rise: Cal quarterback Fernando Mendoza took the road less traveled to earn his starting spot. Mendoza entered the season as the third-string QB on Cal's depth chart behind TCU transfer Sam Jackson V and T.J. Finley before being thrust into the starting role. In seven games as the starter, Mendoza tallied 1,447 yards and 13 touchdowns, and was a major factor in Cal earning a bowl bid. 

It all starts with Tahj Brooks: In the era of bowl opt-outs, it's very common for the best players to not play beyond the regular season. Not only will Brooks play against Cal, but he announced earlier this month he will return to Texas Tech for the 2024 season. Brooks rushed for 1,443 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games, and he will go up against a Cal defense that allowed more than 133 YPG on the ground. A big performance by Brooks could be used as a springboard for Texas Tech into the new-look Big 12 next season. 

Cal's final game in the Pac-12: Cal was one of the founding members of the Pacific Coast Conference in 1915, and the league known now as the Pac-12 won't look the same with the departures of Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington to the Big Ten, Cal and Stanford to the ACC and Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah to the Big 12 this summer. A win this weekend would be a perfect way to close out one chapter and simultaneously usher in a new era of conference membership.

Independence Bowl prediction, picks

Bowl games are always tricky to predict because of opt outs and the incentive for coaches to play younger talent who didn't see much action during the regular season. The key for Cal is the run game, and that starts with Jaydn Ott, who totaled over 1,400 scrimmage yards with 13 total touchdowns. With both teams riding a hot streak coming in, this is bound to be close. Cal against the spread seems like the right play, and it wouldn't be surprising if the Bears won outright. Pick: Cal +3

Which college football picks can you make with confidence during bowl season? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned well over $2,000 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons -- and find out.