No. 23 Utah Utes (9-3) 5-7 ATS, 3-8-1 O/U vs. California Golden Bears (8-4) 6-6 ATS, 6-6 O/U December 23, 2009 Poinsettia Bowl 8:00 p.m. EST
By Wilson of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Utah +3/Cal -3
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The California Golden Bears were a preseason favorite to win the Pac-10 Conference and advance to the Rose Bowl especially after their fourth place finish from a year ago. However, the Golden Bears finished 8-4 and suffered some embarrassing losses to the University of Washington and the Oregon Ducks. In fact, the Bears lost the four games by a combined score of 145-30! Ouch! What happened to the projected champs? Maybe thats what happened- projected champs. Sometimes its not worth being the favorite which raises the expectations even more.
The Bears will try to regroup after their last regular season loss to the Huskies albeit tough for most guys not to think about how their high expectations have been grounded. But the Bears will welcome the chance to end on a good note.
Both of these teams are coming into this bowl after losing their last regular season game. The Utah Utes lost to the BYU Cougars 26-23, and the Golden Bears were stunned by the Washington Huskies 42-10! Both teams have won just two games out of their last five contests.
Utahs offense enters this bowl game averaging 29.2 points per game with 389 yards of total offense per game; 220 yards passing and 169 on the ground. Defensively, the Utes allow 19.7 points per game to the opposition. They give up 173 through the air and 141 yards to the run. Utah has scored 22 points or more in every one of their games this season.
The Golden Bears enter this bowl game with similar numbers to those of Utah as they also average 29.2 points per game. The Bears produce 398 yards of total offense per effort with 223 yards in passing and another 175 yards on the turf. Defensively, California allows a bit more points on the board than Utah. Cal gives up 24.5 points per game. The Bears give up 260 yards passing and 116 yards rushing per game.
Utah has the advantage over Cal in yards allowed, time of possession, penalties, and punting yards.
The last time these two teams met was in 2003, and Utah won at home 31-23.
The QB matchup in this game should be a decent showing as Utahs Terrance Cain has a 63 percent completion rate with over 1,623 passing yards and 11 TDs to 5 INTs. Cals Kevin Riley has a 54 percent completion rate with 2,636 yards passing and 17 TDs to 6 picks.
The betting line on this game opened at Utah -3.5 with a total of 53.5. Currently (Dec. 15) most offshore casinos are showing Utah -3 with the total at 52.5. The Las Vegas Hilton, Mirage, and the Hard Rock sportsbooks are all showing Utah -3 with the O/U 52.5. Some expert handicappers are picking Utah to cover and also taking the over. California can score a lot of points or they can score 10 like they did against Washington, so it will be a test of time and a question as to which Golden Bears team will show up. The Utes have been pretty consistent all year and I expect them to stay the course in the post season.
The over is 9-2-1 in Utahs last 12 non-conference games. California is 10-3-1 O/U in their last 14 non-conference games. The Bears are also 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games in December.
California has one of the best running backs in the country in Jahvid Best, but he has had injuries, and the most recent was a concussion November 30. He is DOUBTFUL to play in the Poinsettia Bowl. If Cal comes in healthy they might give the Utes all they can handle right before Christmas.
Wilsons Pick: The Golden Bears win and cover!