New Year’s Eve features plenty of action, with one of the more interesting games featuring the Utah Utes (7-5) of the Pac-12 Conference traveling to El Paso, TX to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4) of the ACC this Saturday afternoon (2:00pm ET) in the Sun Bowl. Utah dropped their regular season finale to Colorado 17-14 as a 22.5 point favorite, and struggled to a 30-27 win at Washington St. the week before that as a 3.5 point favorite. Georgia Tech lost two of their last three regular season games, including a 31-17 loss to in-state rival Georgia as a 4.5 point underdog. Utah is 5-7 ATS this season, while Georgia Tech is 5-6-1 ATS.
The Utes rank 79th among FBS teams in scoring offense with 24.6 points per game and 110th in total offense with 308.8 yards per game on average. The Utah defense has been among the best in the country, ranking 18th in scoring defense with 19.7 PPG allowed and 31st in total defense with 344.1 YPG allowed. The Achilles heel for the Utah defense has been the secondary, their pass defense ranks 0th among FBs teams with 245.8 YPG surrendered. Georgia Tech operates a heavily run-oriented offense that utilizes the triple-option under Head Coach Paul Johnson that averages 34.9 PPG (19th in the nation) and 459.6 total YPG (17th in the nation) on the strength of a running game that ranks 3rd nationally with an average of 316.8 YPG. The Tech defense has allowed 25.8 PPG to rank 60th among all FBS teams, and ranks 44th among FBS teams in total defense with 361 YPG allowed.
Utah vs. Georgia Tech Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Utah Utes +2.5
@Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -2.5
Over 50 (-110)
Under 50 (-110)
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Utah vs. Georgia Tech Pick:
Utah is 7-2 ATS in their last 9 bowl games and 11-5-1 ATS in their last 7 non-conference games. The Yellow Jackets are 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8 games overall and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 bowl games. The under is 10-4 in the Utes last 14 games overall and 5-1 in their last 6 games against a team with a winning record. The under is 5-2 in Georgia Tech’s last 7 games overall and 11-5-1 in their last 17 games against a team with a winning record. The two teams have no recent meetings, their only previous meeting came in the 2005 Emerald Bowl—a 38-10 Utes victory in San Francisco, CA.
Georgia Tech has had trouble in bowl games, losing their last six, and has sputtered toward the finish line this season losing three of their final four games. The conventional wisdom holds that Tech has struggled in bowl games under Johnson because their opponents are more effective at stopping the triple option when they have more time to prepare for it. Utah is more equipped than most teams to play the Yellow Jackets as they rank 7th nationally in run defense, allowing only 98.3 yards per game. Georgia Tech is a very young team, ten true freshmen have played this season and they should return 16 starters next season. Utah has arguably faced stronger completion with impressive wins over Pitt and BYU among others. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is an impressive 6-1 in bowl games, and he should be able to add to that impressive record with a win over a young Tech team here. Take Utah and the points in this game as their run defnse should give them a big advantage against a Tech team that has lost the momentum of a hot 6-0 start and has not defeated any topflight teams this season besides their conference rival Clemson.