Boxing Day features a three-game slate with a game for each timeslot. Don’t worry, we’re getting closer to some actual good bowl matchups. Other than the Texas Tech-South Florida and San Diego State-Army game, this bowl season has been a snoozer. In the majority of games, one team is showing up while the other couldn’t be bothered to play.
This happens every year, but not to this extent. I’ve seen teams in the past at least act like they want to be there, and not just sit on the ball and watch the clock tick down. This isn’t the case with the top-tier bowls, which are just around the corner. There isn’t a top-tier game today, but there are some big schools in action. Utah and West Virginia are recognizable names in college football.
West Virginia will have to go about this game without a recognizable face at quarterback. Will Grier broke a finger in November and will sit this one out. The Mountaineers will also be down another playmaker, as running back Justin Crawford will take a seat to avoid injuring himself before the 2018 NFL Draft. Not sure if that’s the right move for a guy who isn’t going to be a top selection. Scouts give a free pass to can’t-miss prospects, but Crawford, in my opinion, may have benefitted from getting another game of film in. Crawford is currently projected as a mid to late round selection.
He may or may not be a good player in the NFL, but we do know he’s an effective runner at West Virginia. He ran for 1,061 yards and 7 touchdowns with 5.6 yards per carry. Crawford slipped from his 7.3 yards per carry in 2016. It’s hard for me to judge Big-12 running backs considering the kind of defenses they play against in the conference. Same goes for quarterbacks. Who is the most recent quarterback from the Big-12 that has had remote success, Sam Bradford?
Patrick Mahomes looks promising but we haven’t seen him in a regular season game yet. Anyway, for the purposes of this game, West Virginia are going to be down some weapons offensively. The Utes enter with a 34-13 win over Colorado, but have won just two in their last eight games. It was a grueling stretch for Utah with several top programs in their path. Head below for our free Utah vs. West Virginia pick in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Utah Utes vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Betting Odds:
vs. West Virginia +6.5(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Utah vs. West Virginia Pick:
While West Virginia will be without their starting quarterback, Utah will be getting theirs back. The absence of Tyler Huntley for a few games this season really did them in. The Utes were without Huntley for Stanford and USC. They lost to Stanford, 23-20, and USC, 28-27. They were actually a yard away from winning that USC game, as the opted to go for the win with a 2-point conversion late in regulation. Let’s assume that Huntley plays in those two games. I’m sure he would have gotten Utah the extra few points they needed to beat Stanford and USC.
Huntley was also absent for the season finale, but they were able to handle Colorado easily with a 34-13 final. West Virginia are coming off a couple of losses in a row against Texas and Oklahoma. Backup quarterback Chris Chugunov made the first start of his career against the Sooners, where he passed for 137 yards on 10-of-20 passing. Running back Kennedy McKoy carried the load with 137 yards and 3 touchdowns but it wasn’t enough.
McKoy will look to carry the load for the Mountaineers in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. He owns 570 yards on 5.1 yards per carry. West Virginia must find a way to shut down Huntley. USC and Stanford had the luxury of not having to worry about him, but he can be explosive. He’s 2nd in the Pac-12 and 15th in FBS with 302.9 yards per game of total yardage. They also have to watch out for receiver Darren Carrington who will get some looks from NFL teams in the draft. He is 2nd in the Pac-12 with 83.5 receiving yards per game. Without Grier at quarterback, it’s tough for me to side with the Mountaineers against a healthy Huntley. The points look a bit trappy to me.
PICK: UTAH -6.5 (-110)