Among the higher quality Bowl Week matchups is one between teams that lost their respective conference championship games. The Big Ten Northwestern Wildcats impressed all by winning the West Division for the first time in their history. The Pac 12 Utah Utes took the South Division championship for the first time since joining the league in 2011. Both the Cats and Utes play physical brands of football that old school fans will appreciate. While Northwestern uses guts, brawn and brains for success they lack breakaway athletes. And while Utah is not overloaded in that area either they look to have a notch more in natural talent than the Cats.
The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl will go down Monday, December 31, 2018, at 7 p.m. ET at SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, California. The game can be seen on FS1.
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Live Betting Odds Analysis
Utah is seen by the public as the deeper and more capable team. While the betting public admires Northwestern, the fact remains they are severely challenged on offense. Live betting action will likely flow to Utah regardless of circumstances based on their better overall talent.
Cats Greater Than Total Sum of Their Parts
Northwestern, much like Stanford, Duke, and Vanderbilt, faces the challenge of being an academically elite private school trying to compete in the highest levels of college football. Such programs have high entrance requirements that immediately closes the door on a lot of elite recruiting talent. Yet Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has built a consistent winner in Evanston. This will be the fourth consecutive bowl season for NU and their ninth in the last 11 seasons. Fitzgerald “gets” Northwestern having played their as an All-American linebacker in their Rose Bowl season of 1995. “Fitz” has found the perfect formula that has elevated his program into a Big Ten title contender. The Cats enter this bowl game with a record of 8-5 straight up, 6-5-2 against the spread, and 6-7 under the total. Northwestern was clearly outclassed in the Big Ten championship game in a 45-24 loss to Ohio State.
Utah Takes Advantage of Weak Division
The Utah Utes finished 9-4 straight up, 7-6 against the spread, and 7-6 over the total. Utah lost an ugly 10-3 Pac 12 championship game to Washington. The Utes were able to win the bad Pac 12 South Division basically by default. Utah finished 6-4 in conference play with Arizona State finishing behind them at 5-4. Four of the six teams in the division had losing records both overall and in conference. Head coach Kyle Whittingham has sent the Utes bowling in all but two seasons since taking over in 2005. Utah has won all but one of those bowl matchups.
Despite not being a dominant team, the Utes are strong defensively. Utah ranks 15th in the nation for total defense and 17th for points allowed. Offensively the Utes were much more challenged with rankings of 70th overall and 66th for scoring.
Northwestern struggled badly on offense this year to ranks 106th overall and 107th for scoring. Defensively the Cats ranked 61st overall and 40th for points allowed.
Players to Watch
Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson threw for 2942 yards with 15 touchdown passes.
For Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley is probable after suffering a collarbone injury. However top running back Zack Moss (1092 yards) is out with a knee injury.
Free Live Betting ATS Pick
Utah has proven to be one of the best wagering values on the board in bowl games through the years. In fact, the Utes have come away with the money in 11 of their last 14 bowl games. Further, in this matchup, their defense should stifle what little offense that Northwestern has.
NCAA Football Odds: Utah Utes
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