NCF Nation: 2011 Sun Bowl 3 Keys

Sun Bowl: Three keys for Utah

December, 30, 2011
What are three keys for Utah against Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve. Glad you asked.

1. John White. It's as simple as the Utah running back's name. The Utes are 7-0 when White eclipses 100 yards rushing and 0-5 when he doesn't. If he doesn't get his pound of flesh, Georgia Tech likely will pound the Utes.

2. Protect the ball. Utah was highly competitive in an early-season loss at USC, and it completely imploded at Colorado when White got hurt. But the theme of its other three losses was simple: turnovers. Washington, Arizona State and California won the turnover battle with the Utes by a combined 14-1 count. Turnovers are always important, but keeping that ratio even will be critical for the Utes because of their offensive limitations. They can't make things hard on their defense and easy for the Yellow Jackets.

3. Sound defense. Georgia Tech -- not unlike Utah's former Mountain West Conference foe, Air Force -- had success during the regular season because its offense is so unusual, one that uses triple- and spread-option concepts but is also creative in general in the running game. It's not easy to prepare for that with just a week of practice. But the Utes have had five weeks to teach their eyes all the feints and fakes that distract defenders and cause them to leave their assignments. The Yellow Jackets are going to get some first downs. But the Utes need to play patient, sound defense and consistently take the Jackets out of their third-and-short comfort zone.

Sun Bowl keys

December, 30, 2011
Georgia Tech is at its best when it controls the clock, doesn’t turn it over and doesn’t have to play from behind. Other than that, here are three keys to the Jackets’ matchup against Utah:

1. Contain John White. Georgia Tech has allowed a 100-yard rusher five times this season, and White is No. 11 in the FBS in yards per game (117) and third in total attempts (290). Utah doesn’t have much firepower on offense -- it ranks 110th nationally in total offense, the lowest output of any bowl team -- but it can move the ball with White.

2. Continue the third-down success. No team in the country has been better at converting third downs than Georgia Tech, which leads the nation with 54.88 percent. Utah’s opponents have converted just 38 percent of their third downs. The offensive line has played well this year and needs to keep it up.

3. Win the special teams game. Georgia Tech has had two field goals blocked (one returned for a touchdown), a fumbled punt return resulted in a Miami touchdown, kickoffs have been returned from deep in the end zone, and there have been two punts of less than 20 yards. Still, the group has had its moments and the Yellow Jackets rank sixth nationally in punt return defense.