Cal Football: What are the Bears’ latest bowl odds/projections?

Cal Football (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Cal Football (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Cal football program is riding a wave of momentum following a big victory over Washington State. Where does the team currently stand in terms of bowl projections?

The Cal football team took a huge step towards bowl contention with their 33-20 victory over Washington State on Saturday. With a 5-4 record, the Bears have a great chance of qualifying for their second bowl appearance in as many years.

And in many ways, their performance this season is even more impressive.

Cal started the season off 4-0 behind a breakout year from quarterback Chase Garbers and on the heels of some dominant defensive performances. There were few more surprising teams in college football over the first month of the season than the Bears.

Unfortunately, that 4-0 record would be the peak of their 2019 season.

An injury to Garbers, an injury to backup quarterback Devon Modster, and injuries to the offensive line — among other areas — quickly halted the progress that Cal had made. And before long, the Bears were losers of four in a row and had quickly fallen to 4-4.

Gone were Pac-12 title game hopes and Rose Bowl contention talks. Sure, it seemed like a pipe dream at the time, but who knows what could have happened if this team stayed healthy.

But Cal was determined to salvage a bowl game and their statement victory over Washington State on Saturday leaves the team in great shape entering the final stretch of the season.

The Bears will play their final home game this Saturday against USC before finishing their season off on the road against Stanford and UCLA. In theory, Cal only needs one victory to qualify for a bowl game.

That shouldn’t exactly be too hard to come by.

USC is still a solid team and while they’ve been hampered by some poor coaching, they certainly have a more talented roster from top to bottom. But the Bears could be in for an additional boost in the form of a returning Garbers.

The sophomore quarterback was knocked out in the first half of the Arizona State game and has been dealing with a right shoulder injury ever since. But as of Monday, Garbers was cleared to practice fully and play if need be.

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It’s unclear if he will start but the Bears have options now.

After USC, Cal will take on a Stanford team that will be fighting for their own postseason lives. The Cardinal have battled injuries and inconsistency this season and very well could see their 10-year bowl streak ended this season.

Expect Cal to be favored in the Big Game for the first time in years.

Finally, Cal will finish the season off against a UCLA team that has exceeded expectations this season but is still beatable. Finding one win out of those three shouldn’t be too challenging — especially with Modster coming off his best game and Garbers returning.

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Technically, six games wouldn’t clinch a bowl appearance for Cal since not all six-win teams do play in the postseason. However, it’s fairly rare to see a Power-5 school win six games and not make a bowl game.

And given the state of the Pac-12, Cal should be able to earn one of their six bowl invites with a six-win season.

The real question comes with what game the team could be playing in. As of right now, the projections seem to be all over the place.

ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura has the Bears playing Miami in the Sun Bowl while 247 Sports actually projects the same thing. However, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach predicts a Cal/Boise State matchup in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Meanwhile, insider Brett McMurphy and CBS Sports‘ projections each have Cal missing a bowl game entirely.

So in actuality, it’s far too early to say. But despite what the latter two projections might indicate, it does seem likely that the Cal football team makes a bowl game this season.

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Now, it’s just about taking care of business and playing the waiting game.