This year the Valero Alamo Bowl will be between two teams that haven’t played each other since 1982. The Texas Longhorns (7-5) face off against the Utah Utes (11-2) on New Year’s Eve at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The Utah Utes come in as only seven-point favorites and the over/under at 55.
Considering the difference in records, I’d say oddsmakers are expecting this game to stay close throughout. The Utes were able to win the Pac-12 South Division title but fell short of winning the Pac-12 Championship after a disappointing loss to Oregon.
Five of the last seven bowl games have been decided by seven points or less, but who to choose?
Throwing Salt In Utah’s Wound
The Texas Longhorns head into the Alamo Bowl as seven-point underdogs, and it’s their third straight bowl appearance under head coach Tom Herman. Although the Alamo Bowl probably has less significance than the Longhorns’ Sugar Bowl win against Georgia last year, it’s still a very important game for Texas.
The Longhorns had a pretty lackluster season finishing just 7-5, so it’s important they come home with a win although it won’t be easy.
Texas could be missing some key pieces on offense this week, with leading rusher Keontay Ingram and wide receiver Devin Duvernay both being questionable for Tuesday. The Longhorns are 6-1 when rushing for over 150 yards, so if Ingram is out, that could pose a problem for the running game.
The good news is Sam Ehlinger, the Longhorns’ quarterback, is well-rested heading into this game. Against one of the toughest defenses in college football, the Longhorns will need all the offense they can get.
Moving On From Oregon
The Utah Utes are also looking to move on from a lackluster end of their season. In the Pac-12 Championship, Utah lost to Oregon 37-15 in an uncharacteristic showing of the Utes defense. After allowing over 230 yards on the ground, the Utes are looking to tighten up their defense against a run-first Texas team.
Although the Utes fell short of their goals for this season, an Alamo Bowl appearance is a welcome consolation prize.
Since 1996, Utah is 14-2 in bowl games, and although the Utes are only favored by seven points, Utah has the potential to win by much more. The Utes have had a very good year aside from the game against Oregon, as before that, Utah had only allowed four rushing touchdowns all year.
Utah’s offense, although nothing to be astounded by, gets the job done with Tyler Huntley at the helm. What Utah does best is defense, allowing just 13.2 ppg, and pitching two shutouts this year, so the Longhorns offense will have their hands full on Tuesday.
An argument against the Utes is that their schedule hasn’t been very competitive. In games against teams in the Top 25, the Utes are 0-2, Texas isn’t in the Top 25, but it is still the third- or fourth-best team the Utes will face this year.
Pick and Prediction
To some, it might look like Texas has a chance of winning this one even without the point spread because of Utah’s strength of schedule. Although the Utes haven’t been able to beat teams in the Top 25, they still have notable wins against teams like UCLA, Arizona State, and Washington. The Utes also have the sour taste of the Pac-12 Championship in their mouth, giving them all the motivation they need to take this game from Texas.
The Longhorns, on the other hand, could be missing two of their top offensive performers on Tuesday. Playing against the Utes defense down two starters is a recipe for disaster, even with a healthy and rested Ehlinger. Utah is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games as a favorite, and the total has gone under in three of Texas’ last four games. The Utes will cover the spread, and the total will be under 55.