NCF Nation: 2011-Sun-Bowl-preview

Utah tries to get the Pac-12 its first win of the bowl season against Georgia Tech and it's option attack in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

WHO TO WATCH: Utah RB John White. When White runs well, the Utes win. When he doesn't, they don't. He sprained his ankle and was knocked out of the Utes' shocking season-ending loss to Colorado that cost them the Pac-12 South title, but he should be 100 percent after five weeks of rest. The Utes must run the ball well to take the pressure off QB Jon Hays and a poor-to-middling passing game. The Yellow Jackets aren't good against the run — 162.92 yards per game — but they will load the box with defenders and dare Hays to throw.

WHAT TO WATCH: Utah has a good defense and is particularly stout against the run, surrendering 97 yards per game, which ranks seventh nationally. Georgia Tech's option offense ranks third nationally with 316.8 yards per game. Something, as they say, needs to give. To the Utes' advantage, extra time to prepare for an option attack helps. But the Yellow Jackets are aware of that and likely will have some tricks up their jersey sleeves, with QB Tevin Washington probably trying to go over the top a few times as the Utes lean forward to stop the run. Of course, Washington hasn't thrown a TD pass since Oct. 1.

WHY TO WATCH: Georgia Tech has lost six bowl games in a row, and many say it's due to that extra time opponents get to prepare their defense for the option. Utah, meanwhile, is 6-1 in bowl games under Kyle Whittingham, including a win over the Yellow Jackets in the 2005 Emerald Bowl. So a trend will continue, and one will end.

PREDICTION: Utah 20, Georgia Tech 17: The Utes should be able to slow the Yellow Jackets' run enough to force Washington to throw, and those results haven't been good this year for the Jackets when he has. As long as White is productive, Hays will be able to throw just enough to keep the Tech defense honest.

Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Utah

December, 30, 2011
Georgia Tech will be playing in its 15th straight bowl game, but is looking for its first bowl win under coach Paul Johnson. Here is a quick preview of Saturday's 2 p.m. ET game:

WHO TO WATCH: Quarterback Tevin Washington. He has had an inconsistent season and finished on a sour note, throwing a pair of interceptions in the 31-17 loss to rival Georgia. The Yellow Jackets are obviously a run-based team, but they have not thrown a touchdown pass since Oct. 1. Still, his 890 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns are the second-most by a quarterback in school history. He enters the bowl game ranked sixth in the ACC in rushing, fifth in scoring and ninth in total offense.

WHAT TO WATCH: Utah’s defense against Georgia Tech’s spread option offense. It’s not just the triple option, and technically, the Yellow Jackets only run the triple option about 20 percent of the time. The thing is, it usually works. Georgia Tech has the nation’s No. 3 rushing offense (316.8), but Utah ranks seventh nationally in rushing defense (97.0). The Yellow Jackets rank 19th nationally in scoring offense (34.9), while the Utes rank 18th nationally in scoring defense (19.7). Something’s gotta give.

WHY TO WATCH: Georgia Tech is trying to snap a six-game bowl losing streak. The Jackets have lost to Air Force, Iowa and LSU under Johnson, and haven’t won a bowl game since Dec. 21, 2004, when they beat Syracuse, 51-14. The team that started the six-game losing streak? Utah in the 2005 Emerald Bowl.

PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 28, Utah 24. The Utes couldn’t handle a floundering Colorado team that had just one league win in the regular season finale, and this will be a much more difficult challenge. Those within Georgia Tech’s program are tired of hearing about the six-game losing streak, and Johnson is at his best when he’s got something to prove. Georgia Tech will catch Utah off guard with several big plays, control the clock and in turn the game.