2011 Hyundai Sun Bowl Georgia Tech vs Utah Odds, Free Picks and Predictions on ESPN 12/31/11

Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: Georgia Tech vs Utah 2011 Sun Bowl Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 12/31/11: Utah moved to the PAC-12 prior to the start of the year, and while there were some ups and downs, the Utes managed a 7-5 season in their new conference. The record earned the Utes a berth in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, where they will take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4) Saturday. Georgia Tech limps into the postseason, struggling down the stretch after a 6-0 start. Despite the late season struggles, the Yellow Jackets are three-point favorites in this matchup.

It is hard to find many similarities between the two teams. Utah runs a more traditional offense that yields modest point totals, while Georgia Tech runs an explosive triple-option attack that averaged almost 35 a game. Meanwhile, the Utes have one of the better defenses in the country, allowing less than 20 a contest, while the Yellow Jackets give up almost 25 points per game. With Georgia Tech looking to play fast and pile up points and the Utes hoping to grind things out, the team that can control the tempo is going to have a huge edge.

Utah’s ability to defend the triple option is going to be the critical matchup. The Yellow Jackets ranked third in the country, gaining almost 320 yards per game on the ground. The Utes bring the seventh-best rushing defense into the battle, allowing less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Something has to give, and whichever side wins the battle is going to have a decided advantage.

Shutting down the Georgia Tech ground game starts with controlling quarterback Tevin Washington. He led the Yellow Jackets in rushing and passing, combining for 22 total touchdowns. Washington is the director of the option attack, and if Utah can get him out of his comfort zone, the whole system struggles. At the very least, the Utes need to limit Washinton’s big plays and force the Yellow Jackets to work the ball down the field slowly.

Of course, the Utes will have to score some points of their own, even if the defense holds Georgia Tech in check. That has been an issue for Utah at times, especially following the loss of quarterback Jordan Wynn. Backup John Hays hasn’t been terrible, but with just eight touchdowns and seven interceptions as the starter, it is clear that he isn’t on the same level as Wynn. If Hays experiences some bowl game jitters, the Utah offense could be in trouble.

The X-factor in the matchup could be Utes’ running back John White. He ran for more than 1,400 yards this season and 14 scores, and he absolutely carried the load for the Utah offense after Wynn went down. The Utes’ rely on White not only to score points, but to help the offense control the clock as well. If White has a big game, the Utes can control the all-important tempo. When he is rolling, he takes pressure of Hays at the QB spot and allows the stout Utah defense to stay well rested.

In the end, the triple-option attack should have mixed results against the Utah defense. The system is tricky enough to hit a few big plays, but the Utes’ defense is strong enough to prevent the Yellow Jackets from controlling the game on offense. Utah will take advantage of its physicality on both sides of the ball and should be able to play the game at its pace. With a lower-scoring game a distinct possibility, the underdog Utes should keep things close.

Prediction: Utah Utes (+1.5) Cover the Spread

Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: Utah +1.5 to cover the spread

2011 Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech vs Utah
Date: 12/31/11
Time: 2 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds Favorite: Georgia Tech -1.5 Total: Over/Under 50

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