Alamo Bowl: Utah Utes vs. Texas Longhorns Pick

by | Dec 17, 2019 | cfb

Utah Utes (11-2 SU, 9-4 ATS) vs. Texas Longhorns (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Valero Alamo Bowl
Date and Time: Tuesday, December 31, 2019 at 7:30PM EST
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
TV: ESPN

Point Spread: UTAH -7.5/TEX +7.5 (Best Bonus)
Over/Under Total: 55

The Utah Utes come to San Antonio to take on the Texas Longhorns in the Alamodome on December 31. The locale behooves Texas, who gets an in-state bowl game. But they also get an 11-2 opponent in the Utes, a team that nearly won the Pac-12 this season, falling in their last game on December 6 to Oregon, 37-15. It was an upsetting end to a great regular season for the Utes, and they now try to end their season on an up-note against Texas. At 7-5, it wasn’t a banner season for the Longhorns, though they did finish on a positive note with a 49-24 win over Texas Tech on November 29. With over a month off leading to this game, will they be able to compete with a Utah squad that saw a lot of success this season?

Examining the Letdown Factor

Granted, the Alamo Bowl was not Texas’ goal, either. This wasn’t what they had their sights set on, so this eventuality could be a letdown from an overall sense. But that’s nothing compared to Utah, as they entered the Pac-12 title game in their last contest needing a win to possibly get into the College Football Playoff. And to go from entertaining a conference championship and a possible spot in the big dance to playing a 7-5 team at the barren Alamodome is about as drastic a falloff as you can get from one loss. After watching them fall flat against the Ducks with all the chips in the middle of the pot, what can they come up with here?

On one hand, there are a lot of good teams this season, and not all of them will end up in their ideal bowl scenarios. Head coach Kyle Whittingham generally surfaces with a good team in bowl season, with his teams going 11-2 in bowl games during his tenure. And not all those were high-profile bowl games. But for those looking to factor in a little deflation based on how costly their late-season slipup proved to be, it’s probably not an entirely misplaced sentiment.

Can What Texas Does Well Translate Here?

Since a 4-1 start, the Longhorns have gone 3-4 and have been outscored by their opponents overall in their last seven games. On the surface, that would seem to be problematic against an 11-win team that did some big things this season. Texas did beat a Kansas St. team that beat Oklahoma, while also losing in close one-score games to two teams in the CFP against LSU and the Sooners. Their defense let them down more often than not, commonly wasting the performances of an offense that otherwise has the firepower to compete.

That firepower could have Texas in this game. Led by QB Sam Ehlinger, the Longhorns have a vital aerial attack, with the excellent Devin Duvernay and a large cast of contributors. They also have balance, with Keaontay Ingram, Roschon Johnson, and Ehlinger himself having run for 590 yards and six scores to go with his 29 TDs through the air. At the same time, a big part of why they’re 7-5 is because this group doesn’t always surface with the same production, having scored 23 against Iowa State and ten against Baylor in their last two games that led to the win over a suffering Texas Tech team in the season finale. And with Ingram and Duvernay listed as questionable, there’s a chance this offense won’t quite be 100% on game-night.

Texas’ lack of offense in the right conditions is a definite concern when facing Utah. Sure, they fell flat in their biggest game of the season, which wasn’t a good look for the Utes. But even in giving up 37 to Oregon, they have still allowed just 13.2 points per game on average. That’s a pretty daunting statistic considering the great Pac-12 offenses they played this season. Looking at the point totals of their opponents this season, some teams that had better seasons than Texas has to be a concern for potential Longhorns’ backers. The top defense in the country against the run, the Utes aren’t much worse against the pass. Their balance on this side of the ball, with their vast playmaking ability with guys like LB Devin Lloyd, DE Bradlee Anae, and DB Justin Blackmon, can control games and leave opposing offenses floundering.

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How the Texas “D” Matches Up

This has generally been one of the better Utah offenses seen in recent seasons. Led by Tyler Huntley, who can also run the ball well, the offense is pretty strong on an average of 34 points scored per game. Zack Moss is a monster on the ground. Texas’ run-defense is the best part of their “D” so we’ll see if they can dissuade the Utah ground-attack. But Huntley works well with a thick cast of aerial targets, and in that realm, the Texas secondary would figure to struggle. Sure, they played in the pass-heavy Big 12 where teams can put up big numbers, but in allowing an average of 306 passing yards per game, this secondary has shown itself to be quite deficient and frankly, one of the worst in the entire nation.

Lay the Number on the Utes

There should be some trepidation on every bet you make, so this is no different. Still, Utah’s last game was alarming, and there’s something about this Utes team that makes one hesitant about laying a number against a team in a game that’s a bit out-of-context. And there are quirks within this matchup where what Texas does best isn’t necessarily countered by what the Utes do best. Be that as it may, I don’t see much letdown from Utah here, as they will be eager to finish a season strong even if it didn’t end up the way they had hoped. I think their balance on both sides of the ball will be too much for a flawed Texas team that has been quite average over the second half of the season. I’ll take the Utes.

Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Utah Utes minus 7.5 points.

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