In what can be construed as a pair of blows for West Virginia, two of their star players on offense won’t take the field here. Will Grier’s finger hasn’t healed well enough for him to be on the field in this contest. In addition, Justin Crawford, who ran for 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns, will sit out as he prepares for the 2018 NFL Draft. For Utah, Tyler Huntley is expected to play and get the start under center but their big question mark comes in their receiving corps. Darren Carrington II, who led the team in receptions and receiving yards, is questionable for this one. This one still seems like a one score game, so take the points and the Mountaineers.
The Pac-12 battles the Big 12 in bowl action down in the Lone Star State. The Utah Utes clash with the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday, December 26. Utah won for just the second time in eight games as they downed Colorado 34-13 at home in their regular season finale on November 25. West Virginia was rolled 59-31 at #4 Oklahoma in their final regular season game back on November 25. The Utes won the only previous meetings between the programs, taking a 32-6 win in the Liberty Bowl held in Atlantic City back on December 19, 1964.
Utah Utes Try to Finish Above .500
Utah had a stellar start to the season as they were 4-0 out of the gate before things crumbled. The Utes dropped six of their last eight games and only got to the .500 mark by beating Colorado in their finale. Utah finished just 3-6 in Pac-12 play, leaving them second-last in the South Division. The Utes jumped to a 28-0 halftime lead over the Buffaloes and coasted to the victory. Utah had a solid 491-319 advantage in total yards, rolled up 29 first downs while allowing 17 and held the time of possession advantage by a 35:27 to 24:33 margin. The Utes forced the game’s only turnover in the contest as well.
The Utes enter this contest 45th in the FBS in passing offense with 255.3 yards per contest and 69th in rushing offense with 160.7 yards per game. Utah is 58th in scoring offense as they put up 29.4 points per contest and is 40th in scoring defense by allowing 23.1 points per game. Tyler Huntley is 187 of 286 passing for 2,246 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while running for 480 yards plus four scores. Troy Williams is 60 of 110 passing for 812 yards with two touchdowns against four interceptions while adding 75 yards plus four scores on the ground. Zack Moss leads the Utes in rushing with 194 carries for 1,023 yards plus nine scores while Devonta’e Henry-Cole is next in line with 53 carries for 266 yards plus two scores. Darren Carrington II leads Utah with 66 receptions for 918 yards plus six scores. Samson Nacua (28 grabs, 271 yards, TD) and Siaosi Wilson (20 grabs, 393 yards, TD) are secondary targets. Matt Gay has hit all 37 extra points and 27 of 31 field goal attempts with a long of 56 this season.
West Virginia Mountaineers Look to Close Season With Win
West Virginia proved to be no match for Oklahoma on the road without their star quarterback. The Mountaineers dropped their final two games of the regular season to finish 7-5 overall and 5-4 in the Big 12. West Virginia trailed 14-3 after the opening quarter but was bombed 31-7 in the second to trail 45-10 at the half: you could turn out the lights at that point. The Mountaineers were outgained by a hefty 646-387 margin, gave up 27 first downs while picking up 24 and turned the ball over twice while not forcing a turnover. That more than negated the 35:12 to 24:48 edge in time of possession West Virginia enjoyed.
The Mountaineers are 12th in the nation in passing offense as they average 324.2 yards per game while they stand 72nd with 160.4 yards per contest on the ground. West Virginia stands 19th in the FBS in scoring offense with 36.3 points per game and a dismal 92nd in scoring defense as they allow 31.6 points a night. Will Grier is 250 of 388 passing for 3,490 yards with 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions while adding 122 rushing yards and two scores. Chris Chugunov is 34 of 62 passing for 407yards plus two scores. Justin Crawford leads the team on the ground with 190 carries for 1,061 yards plus seven scores. Kennedy McKoy is the #2 back in the system with 111 carries for 565 yards plus seven touchdowns. In the passing game, Gary Jennings is the team’s leading receiver with 94 grabs for a team high 1,030 yards plus a score. David Sills V (60 grabs, 980 yards, team leading 18 TD) and Ka’Raun White (58 catches, 978 yards, 11 TD) are solid options in the passing game too. Mike Molina has booted all 40 extra points and five of eight field goals with a long of 43. Evan Staley is 16 of 16 on extra points and four of five on field goals with a long of 36.
- No Key Trends
- Mountaineers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game
West Virginia hopes to have Grier back but it will depend on how a meeting with the doctor that performed surgery on his hand goes this week. Utah sputtered mightily in the second half of the season though they did come up with a win in their final to become bowl eligible. The Utes don’t really bowl anyone over with their offensive attack as they’re a dink and dunk operation. West Virginia is a high powered offense and even without Grier, hung 31 points against the Sooners. Take the points and the Mountaineers in this one.
Pick: West Virginia Mountaineers +7.5
Utah has to hope that their win over Colorado has helped right a sinking ship as they dropped six of seven prior to that victory. The Utes got a career high 196 yards on the ground from Moss in that contest. Running the ball and grinding the clock might be the Utes’ best strategy as the spread offense that West Virginia runs is an explosive one capable of putting up a lot of points in a short period of time. Ideally for the Mountaineers, Grier is able to play at least in some fashion here to spur the offense but they can survive without him.
The over is 4-1 in the Utes’ last 5 games overall and 5-2 in their last 7 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game. West Virginia has seen the over go 3-0-1 in their last 4 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game, 6-1 in their last 7 games following a straight up loss and 5-1-1 in their last 7 games on grass. This one has the makings of a high scoring affair with the Mountaineers’ offense on the field: look for it to go over the total.