Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) vs. Utah Utes (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS), Saturday December 31st, 2011. 2:00PM EST, Hyundai Sun Bowl,
Sun Bowl Stadium El Paso, Texas
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GT -3.5/UT +3.5
Over/Under Total: 50.5
The historic Sun Bowl will kick off from El Paso, Texas on New Year’s Eve when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets meet the Utah Utes. For those unfamiliar with the Sun Bowl, it is the 2nd oldest bowl game in the country along with both the Orange and Sugar Bowls. For the Yellow Jackets, it will be their first appearance in the prestigious Sun Bowl following an 8-4 regular season. Utah will actually be making their 2nd appearance in the Sun Bowl. However, you have to look way back in the history books to find the Utes last appearance in the Sun Bowl which dates all the way back to 1939 when Utah came away with a 24-0 victory over New Mexico.
Now the Yellow Jackets will try to keep the Utes from claiming the 2nd Sun Bowl victory and overcome a postseason curse at the same time. The Yellow Jackets have been hexed, or so it appears, over the last several years as they have lost their last 6 bowl games. Interestingly enough, it was Utah that handed the Yellow Jackets their first loss to start that drought when the two teams met back in 2005 in the Emerald Bowl. Therefore Georgia Tech will attempt to overturn those trends when both schools square off again inside Sun Bowl Stadium.
Georgia Tech’s offense is widely known as a unique triple option juggernaut. The Yellow Jackets rarely throw the ball, but when they do big plays are fairly common. Defenses have enough troubles stopping the Yellow Jackets rushing attack that averages a ridiculous 316 yards per game on the ground. QB Tevin Washington leads the team in rushing with 816 yards on the ground. Tailbacks David Sims and Orwin Smith have both carried the ball for over 600 yards this season. Each rusher is a big part of that triple option attack, but Washington is still the head honcho that the Utah defense must focus on stopping.
The reason Georgia Tech is able to hit big plays in the passing game that I previously mentioned is because the pass normally catches defenses by surprise. Washington has only completed 47% passing for 1,515 yards with 10 scores and 8 picks. However, due to the fact that Georgia Tech uses about 80-85% of their play call with running plays. Defenses can get suckered in on stopping the run and that has opened the door for some big plays in the passing game for Georgia Tech this season. Utah’s secondary must remain disciplined or that could be the case again.
For Utah, they sport the 7th best rushing defense in American allowing just 97 yards per game on the ground. Of course Utah has not faced an offense that runs the ball quite like Georgia Tech, but they have been very solid this year along the defensive front nevertheless.
The biggest obstacle for Utah this season has been finding different ways to move the football. The Utes have only averaged a measly 308 total yards (110th in NCAA) and 24.58 points (78th I NCAA) per game. One of the reasons the offense has struggled is because of the play behind center with QB Jon Hays. Hays has completed just 57% passing for 1,266 yards with 9 scores and 7 picks on the year. Hays simply has not provided the consistency to have much faith in the Utah passing attack.
As an alternative, the Utes have found some success rushing the football with tailback John White IV. White has posted big numbers on the ground this year with 1,404 yards and 14 scores. To say White is the key to the offensive success is a huge understatement. Take a moment just to look at these simple facts regarding how valuable White’s production is to the offense. In Utah’s 5 losses, White has averaged just 48.6 yards per game. In Utah’s 7 wins, White has averaged 165 yards per game and has not been held to less than 109 yards in any of those games. Therefore, Utah must get their junior tailback going against the Yellow Jackets if that is to be another indicator for the Utes chances again.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: It is no secret that both offenses will run the ball very heavily in this game and I think that will keep the scoring low. Utah has not had many explosive plays on offense and Georgia Tech’s rush defense is pretty solid. The Yellow Jackets have made some big plays this year but the Utah rush defenses matches up well against the run. Collectively those factors should keep the scoring relatively low. Take the under 50.5.
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