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TCU vs. Cal: 5 Things to Know

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The Horned Frogs and Golden Bears will square off for the first time since their legendary Cheez-It Bowl matchup in 2018.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Duquesne at TCU Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The TCU football team took care of business in its home opener against Duquesne on Saturday, building a five-touchdown lead during the first half before coasting to a 45-3 victory in which several second and third-stringers saw live reps under the lights at Amon G. Carter Stadium. The Horned Frogs will continue their stretch of four straight home games later this week when TCU hosts California on Saturday, Sept. 11 at 2:30 p.m.

TCU totaled over 400 yards of offense against the Dukes over the weekend while limiting Duquesne to well under 100 yards. The Horned Frogs will continue their non-conference schedule against the Golden Bears, who struggled in their 22-17 season-opening loss against the Mountain West Conference’s Nevada Wolfpack. It will be TCU and California’s first matchup since the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl, when the Horned Frogs outlasted the Golden Bears in one of the most meme-worthy contest in recent college football history.

Here are five things to know for this weekend’s non-conference matchup.

1. TCU could have multiple starters returning to the lineup

The Horned Frogs defeated Duquesne without several of their starting players including offensive guard Wes Harris, cornerback Noah Daniels and defensive end Khari Coleman. But head coach Gary Patterson said after the victory that Harris will be back for TCU’s game against the Golden Bears. Harris will likely take over at right guard for Coy McMillon, normally the team’s second-string center, who filled in on Saturday.

Patterson also said that both Daniels and backup defensive tackle Terrell Cooper could return for Saturday’s matchup against California. However. Patterson noted that Coleman may remain sidelined until TCU’s game against SMU on Saturday, Sept. 28. Regardless, Harris should solidify an offensive line that fared well in the team’s season opener and helped the running backs rush for nearly 200 yards on the ground.

2. The Horned Frogs are spreading the wealth on offense

While Zach Evans and Quentin Johnston are the two focal points of the TCU offense along with Max Duggan, offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Jerry Kill dialed up several players’ numbers during the victory over Duquense including veterans J.D. Spielman and Emari Demercado, who each scored their first touchdowns as Horned Frogs. Both Derius Davis and Taye Barber made nice downfield receptions, while Kendre Miller and Daimarqua Foster logged several carries out of the offensive backfield.

Savion Williams also opened the game strong with a pair of receptions after earning the starting X-slot receiver role opposite Johnston. Additionally, former five-star prospect and linebacker-turned-receiver Marcel Brooks recorded his first two catches of the season. If Saturday’s game against Duquesne was any indicator, TCU will continue relying on multiple backs and receivers to produce and work together as a group.

3. Cal lost its first game of the season

As noted earlier, the Golden Bears fell against Nevada to open the season, blowing a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on their home field. Cal surrendered 22 unanswered points over the second and third quarters and lost by five points despite shutting Nevada out in the fourth quarter. Fourth-year quarterback Chase Garbers failed to impress, throwing for only 177 yards with one interception while ending the game with -5 rushing yards on six carries.

The Golden Bears were one of five teams in the Pac-12 North to lose their first game of the season, with Oregon emerging as the only victor from the division. One other loser was Stanford, who fell 24-7 in a Pac-12 vs. Big 12 matchup against Kansas State.

4. Saturday’s game will be a rematch of the iconic 2018 Cheez-It Bowl

In what was one of the best/worst entertaining bowl games in recent college football history, TCU outlasted California 10-7 in 2018 to win the Cheez-It Bowl and cap off a 7-6 season. The game featured seven combined interceptions between Garbers and then TCU quarterback Grayson Muehlstein as well as only 30 first downs in regulation and overtime. Let’s hope there’s less moments this time around like we see in the clip above.

5. TCU defensive tackle Corey Bethley has changed positions

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Drew Davison wrote recently that redshirt senior defensive tackle Corey Bethley has moved from a 3-technique to a nose tackle on the TCU defensive line. This move may partly coincide with Earl Barquet earning the starting 3-tech role and the Horned Frogs featuring plenty of depth on the interior with four-star tackles Patrick Jenkins, Jaquaze Sorrells and UCF transfer Kenny Turnier.

Bethley returns as TCU’s most experienced defensive lineman, entering his fifth season with the program after suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2020. Bethley enjoyed a strong freshman season in 2017, notching 2.5 sacks before adding a career-high five sacks in 2018. His production has plateaued since, however, but perhaps the position change can reignite Bethley’s spark and return him to where he was as an underclassman.