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'Horns, Bears ready for bowl redemption

Darren Carroll/Getty Images

The Texas Longhorns hope to be celebrating again tonight after a win in the Holiday Bowl.

Two college football programs that missed out on the bowl party last year will face off in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego tonight at 8 ET on ESPN.

The Texas Longhorns failed to qualify for a bowl last season for the first time under coach Mack Brown; the California Golden Bears didn’t play in the postseason last year for the first time since 2002.

The Longhorns are 8-4 in bowl games under Coach Brown, and since his first year in 1998, only two teams have more bowl victories: Georgia with 10 and Utah with nine. California has just 10 bowl wins all-time, though five of those have come under Bears coach Jeff Tedford since 2002.

California offense vs. Texas defense

Texas was carried this season by a defense that ranked first or second in the Big 12 in scoring, total and passing defense this season. However, in its last regular-season game, Baylor shredded that Longhorns defense, putting up the most total yards (511) and rushing yards (191) of any Texas opponent this season.

The Longhorns will be tested by a California offense that is excelling right now. Cal went 3-1 in November, losing only to Stanford by three points. During that month it ranked third in the Pac-12 in points per game (32.0) and second in rush yards per game (230.0).

The Bears' offense is powered by running back Isi Sofele, who is one of the most explosive rushers in the conference. Sofele had 21 rushes of 15 or more yards, the second-most in the Pac-12 behind only LaMichael James (33). Texas has allowed 19 carries of 15-plus yards, tied for third-fewest in the Big 12.

Zach Maynard Third-Down Passing, Season

California also found success this season when passing on third down.

Quarterback Zach Maynard led the Pac-12 with a 139.4 pass-efficiency rating on third down.

He was at his best in his past two games when he was a combined 11-for-13 on third down with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Maynard will be challenged to repeat those performances by a Texas defense that ranked first in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense on third down (86.7) and allowed the second-fewest yards per attempt (5.1).

Texas Red-Zone Passing This Season

Texas offense vs. California defense

As good as Texas was on defense this season, it was as bad on offense, ranking eighth out of 10 Big 12 teams in points scored and seventh in total yards.

The Longhorns really struggled when throwing the ball in the red zone, ranking last in nearly every red-zone passing category.

It likely won’t get any easier to score against a California defense that gave up the fewest red-zone passing touchdowns in the Pac-12 (9) and the third-fewest yards per attempt (3.8).

Stat of the game

This will be the 50th bowl appearance for Texas. The only school with more bowl appearances is Alabama, which will play in its 58th bowl when it takes the field for the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 9.