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Sun Bowl Pick

Utah vs. Georgia Tech

12/31/11

The Utah Utes (6-6) are 6-1 in bowl games under HC Kyle Whittingham and will try to improve to 7-1 in the Sun Bowl where they will stare down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4). Georgia Tech opened the year 6-0, but faltered down the stretch. The Yellow Jackets have the fourth longest run of consecutive bowl appearance at 15, but have lost six bowl games in a row. Georgia Tech opened as a -3 point favorite and was bet up to as high as -4.5 at some books. This week, Utah money has come in bringing the line down to -2.5. Overall, the action has been fairly balanced with no clear cut public side.

Georgia Tech plays the incredibly run intensive triple option offense. You can expect them to pound the ball for nearly the entire game. Junior QB Tevin Austin is a great weapon for this team. He's passed for 1,515 yards and 10 TDs while being picked off eight times. He has used his legs to get 890 yards and reach the end zone 14 times. He broke loose for a 56 yard TD run against Clemson. Junior David Sims is also an effective runner, standing at 698 yards and seven TDs this season.

Utah is very, very strong on defense when it comes to opposing the run. They have given up a high of 152 yards on the ground this year and held half of their foes below 100 total rushing yards.

Offense has been a shaky subject for Utah. They have a hard time passing, but can move the ball well on the ground with stud RB John White IV. The junior has carved opposing defenses up for 1,404 yards and 14 TDs this year.

The option gives teams fits during the regular season, especially teams that have just one week to prepare and aren't used to seeing it. But the Utes have had a month to prepare and they also were used to preparing by way of having to play Air Force each year before joining the Pac-12. Whittingham also owns a bowl game win over Navy in 2007.

These teams are similar in that their wins, (with the exception of Tech's win over Clemson and Utah's over BYU), came against weaker opposition while they both faltered when they stepped up in class. Sure, Tech had a blistering start, but among their early victims were Western Carolina, Mid Tenn, Kansas and Maryland. They also just squeaked by Duke, 38-31. Do you think Utah is better than Duke?

Utah stumbled as well. They played well against USC and thrashed BYU 54-10 for their "signature win" against a good team, but lost to every other "good" team while piling up wins against the likes of Oregon State, Arizona and Washington State. They needed a win against a Colorado team that had lost 23 straight road games for a spot in the Pac-12 title game but lost 17-14 to end the year.

Georgia Tech averaged 51 points per game through the first 5 games of the season. The last 7 games, they averaged 23. If Tech were able to revert to early season form, Utah wouldn't have a chance, because the Utes simply aren't built to win a shootout and aren't built to have to come from behind.

We're going to go with current form. Which means we'll take the points with the Utes. Our model has the game 25-23 Tech which matches our feeling that a game in the 20's give Utah their best shot. Utah +3 or more

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