El Paso has been a venue for a bowl game for more than 75 years. Utah was a participant in one of the very first Sun Bowls, and now the Utes come back as a member of one of the BCS conferences for the first time. On December 31st, Utah will square off against Georgia Tech of the ACC in the 78th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl.
The only time these two teams have played each other came in the 2005 Emerald Bowl in Seattle, with Utah notching a 38-10 win over a nationally ranked Yellow Jacket squad. The Utes’ only other Sun Bowl invite came in 1939 with a 26-0 win over New Mexico.
Our latest Sun Bowl spread has Georgia Tech as a 3-point chalk, while the total has been posted at 51 points.
The Yellow Jackets started the season 6-0, but limped in with a 2-4 finish, capped by a 31-17 defeat to in-state rival Georgia in the season finale. The team did beat Duke, 38-31, in its ACC finale to end up tied for second in the ACC Coastal Division (5-3). Georgia Tech was 3-2 as a visitor this year.
On offense, the Yellow Jackets rank 19th in the country in points scored (35 points per game) while compiling 462 yards of offense per game (319 via the rush, 143 passing).
The spread-option running game is anchored by three players quarterback Tevin Washington with 890 yards and 14 touchdowns (4.0 yards per attempt), David Sims with 698 yards and seven scores (5.2 ypc) and Orwin Smith with 616 yards and 11 touchdowns (10.3 ypc). Washington connects on 57 percent of his passes for 1,515 yards and 10 TDs with eight interceptions. His best receiving threat is Stephen Hill with 26 catches for 785 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensively, Georgia Tech ranks 60th in points allowed (26 ppg) and gives up 361 yards per contest (198 via the pass, 163 rushing) while totaling 20 sacks and forcing 20 turnovers two of which were taken back for touchdowns (Rod Sweeting and Isaiah Johnson, interceptions).
Julian Burnett anchors the defensive unit with 113 stops (44 more than any other player), chipping in a sack, a forced fumble and a recovery, while Jeremiah Attaochu has six sacks, 52 tackles, a pick, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
The Utes’ first year as a Pac-12 member started unevenly, but steadied with a late four-game win streak that ended with a 17-14 defeat to Colorado to end the year tied for third in the Pac-12 South Division (4-5). Utah did post a 4-2 record away from home, winning the last two and three of four.
Utah is one of the better defensive teams in the nation, rating 18th nationally in scoring (20 ppg) and allowing 343 yards per game (246 via the pass, 97 on the ground) while compiling 30 sacks and forcing 32 turnovers four of which were turned into touchdowns (V.J. Fehoko and Derrick Shelby, fumbles; Shelby and Conroy Black, picks).
Chaz Walker paces the defense with 103 stops (27 more than any other player), adding two forced fumbles, while Black has four picks, 35 stops and a fumble recovery. Shelby and Trevor Reilly each have five sacks and combined for 87 stops, four forced fumbles, three recoveries and an interception.
Sun Bowl Free Pick: Under 51
Utah’s offense simply isn’t very good at this point, but I do think their defensive front can keep them in the game. Both teams should be running the ball early and often, which will keep the clock ticking. I like the value on the under.
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