Friday, December 30, 2011
Sun Bowl: Utah (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (8-4)
By Ted Miller
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.