UTAH VS. WEST VIRGINIA
Game to be played at Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
When the Big Ten couldn’t fulfill its allotted slot opposite the Big 12’s West Virginia, Heart of Dallas Bowl officials still wanted a matchup of Power Five teams for the Dec. 26 contest in Cotton Bowl Stadium and found what they needed in Utah of the Pac-12 Conference. The Utes needed a 34-13 win over visiting Colorado in their regular-season finale to become bowl eligible, giving the Pac-12 nine postseason teams. It will be the 36th bowl for the Mountaineers and 21st for Utah, and although it will be at least the fourth Texas-based bowl game for each school, both will be making their debuts in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which is in its eighth season.
While both teams will be making their fourth straight bowl appearance and the two head coaches – West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham – have coached in a combined 16 postseason contests between them, it’s the latter’s historic bowl success that’s garnering the pregame spotlight. The Utes own an impressive 16-4 all-time bowl record, and Whittingham has accounted for 10 of those wins for an NCAA-best postseason record of 10-1, including victories in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl over Pittsburgh (as a co-head coach) and the 2009 Sugar Bowl over Alabama. “Our secret formula is our players prepare hard and do it the right way, and that’s what it’s all about,” Whittingham said in the Dec. 3 bowl media conference call. “We don’t have a routine or a process that’s top secret. It’s just our guys in the program taking a lot of pride in bowl games, and they prepare the right way.”
The availability of both starting quarterbacks is in question for the game. West Virginia’s Will Grier, the nation’s seventh-ranked passer in terms of efficiency with 3,490 yards and 34 touchdown passes, had surgery after breaking the middle finger on his throwing hand in the first quarter of the Mountaineers’ loss to Texas on Nov. 18, and Holgorsen said the chances of the Florida transfer playing against Utah are “not good.” Meanwhile, dual-threat sophomore starter Tyler Huntley was a surprise pre-game scratch from Utah’s Nov. 25 regular-season finale with an unspecified injury, but Whittingham classified the QB’s bowl prognosis as “looking very positive” in an early-December interview with the Salt Lake Tribune.
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 26 | Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
Location: Cotton Bowl Stadium — Dallas, Texas
TV: | Live stream: Watch ESPN, Watch ESPN apps
Online: CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE IN HD
Series: Utes lead, 1-0
Weather: Mostly sunny, temperatures in the low 40s.
LINE HISTORY: Utah opened as 4.5-point favorites and heading into game day that number is up to 6.5. The total hit betting boards at 54 and has been bet up to 55.5. Check out the complete line history here.
WHERE THE ACTION IS: According to William Hill US, Utah is drawing 51 percent of the tickets written and 83 percent of the money wagered.
Utah – DE K. Fitts (Probable, Undisclosed), QB T. Huntley (Probable, Undisclosed), WR D. Carrington II (Questionable, Undisclosed), DB J. Johnson (Out, Undisclosed), DB M. Blair (Out For Season, Leg), LB C. Drews (Out For Season, Undisclosed), DB T. Smith (Out For Season, Ankle), RB A. Shyne (Out Indefinitely, Leg).
West Virginia – OL J. Buccigrossi (Questionable, Knee), K M. Molina (Questionable, Hip), OL K. Bosch (Out, Undisclosed), QB W. Grier (Out, Finger), RB J. Crawford (Out, Personal), LB B. Ferns (Out For Season, Shoulder).