The first bowl game after Christmas features the Utah Utes (6-6), who finished fifth in the Pac-12 South with a 3-6 record, at the West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5), who finished seventh in the Big 12 with a 5-4 record. Our Utah plays West Virginia 2017 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl pick has the Utes at either minus 7.0 or 6.5 and the over/under at anywhere from 55.5 to 56.5. Both teams struggled at the end of the season with each going 2-3 for their final five games. Utah did win its last game of the season, beating Colorado 34-13. West Virginia last won on Nov 11, as they took down Kansas State 28-23. The Mountaineers then went on to lose to Texas and Oklahoma.
The Ute offense is scoring on average 29.5 PPG. Their 417.7 YPG includes 161 YPG on the ground and another 256 in the air. The Utes will start QB Tyler Huntley (65.4 COMP%, 15 TDs, 10 INTs), who has played banged up this season. He’ll be passing to Utah’s top receiver, senior Darren Carrington II (66 REC, 918 YDs, 13.9 AVG, 6 TDs). Junior WR Raelon Singleton (34 REC, 749 YDs, 14.1 AVG, 4 TDs) will also be an important element in the passing game. Sophomore running back Zack Moss (194 ATT, 1,023 YDs, 5.3 AVG, 9 TDs) is the featured ground gainer and could have a big game today.
On defense, Utah is allowing opponents 23.9 PPG. Of the 353.8 YPG given up, merely 214 have been allowed when teams are passing. LB Sunia Tauteoli and DE Bradlee Anae are both tough against the rush, as each has 10 TFL. Anae leads the team in sacks with seven and forced fumbles with three. DB Julian Blackmon has six PD and two INTs. The Utes have a dozen picks and will be looking to cause some major turnovers today/.
- Defense is tough versus the pass
- RB Moss needs to have a productive game
- A healthy Huntley would be helpful
West Virginia Overview
The Mountaineers have been good for 36.3 PPG. A major issue for this team today is the fact that junior QB Will Grier is out with a broken finger. That means that sophomore QB Chris Chugunov (54.8 COMP%, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) will start. Junior WR David Sills V and senior WR Ka’Raun White are both impressive pass catchers. Sills has 60 catches with 18 going for TDs, while White has 58 receptions for 11 TDs. Wideout Gary Jennings comes into the game with a team-leading 94 receptions for 1,030 yards. The ground game includes Justin Crawford (190 ATT, 1.061 YDs, 5,6 AVG) and Kennedy McKoy (111 ATT, 565 YDs, 5.1 AVG). Each running back has recorded seven touchdown runs.
The West Virginia defense has been problematic, as they are allowing 31.6 PPG. Teams are generating 452.5 YPG of offense with 205 of those yards coming on the rush. We expect that this team will have difficulty against both Utah’s passing and rushing offense. Safety Kyzir White, who has three picks, four PD, six TFL and 81 tackles, will try to create some havoc amongst the Utah offense, as will safety Kenny Robinson, who also has three interceptions. LB Al-Rasheed Benton leads the team in tackles (102) and is tied in TFL (13). He’ll need to set a high standard for the rest of the defense today. Lapses have caused problems for the Mountaineers. They will need to play consistently in this contest for West Virginia to have a chance of winning.
- Star starting QB is out
- Top-notch rush and pass attack
- Defense is lacking.
Three Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl Takeaways
Our Utah plays West Virginia 2017 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl pick includes the following trio of takeaways-
- Defensive edge to Utah
- Offensive edge to West Virginia
- QB edge to Utes
Our 2017 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl Picks
Despite the manner in which offensive stats stack up in favor of the Mountaineers, we can’t help but think that the Utes have an edge due to the WVU QB situation and the Utah defense. However, how big of an edge does Utah actually possess? We think it’s a slight one. With that in mind for our Utah plays West Virginia 2017 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl pick, we’re going with West Virginia at +7.0. We also like the over at 55.5. These two offenses have too much going for them to be hampered by the defenses.