This year’s Sun Bowl features the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets versus the Utah Utes, the latter of which is playing in a bowl game to conclude their first season in the Pac-12 Conference.
The game will be played on Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. ET in El Paso, Texas at the Sun Bowl. The game will be televised on CBS.
Note: Rankings used are from my national top 25 rankings.
Ranking in my National Top 25: No. 24
Record: 8-4 (5-3 ACC)
Biggest win: vs No. 16 Clemson, 31-17, Oct. 29
Worst loss: at Miami, 7-24, Oct. 22
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets got off to a tremendous start this season, winning their first six games, which put them into the top 10 of the national rankings. However, the Yellow Jackets stumbled in the second half of the season, losing four of their final six games.
In their defense, three of those six games were against currently-ranked teams (Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia), and the Yellow Jackets got an upset victory over Clemson, handing the Tigers their first loss of the season. However, the Jackets’ struggles down the stretch took them out of the ACC title race.
With their vaunted triple-option offense, the Yellow Jackets rank second nationally in rushing yards per game, with 316.8. Even with very little production from the passing offense, the Yellow Jackets still rank 17th in total offense on the strength of their running game.
Record: 7-5 (4-5 Pac-12)
Biggest win: at Brigham Young, 54-10, Sept. 17
Worst loss: vs Colorado, 14-17, Nov. 25
The Utah Utes had a rocky first season in the Pac-12, yet they went into the final weekend of the regular season with a chance to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game thanks to USC’s postseason ban. However, the Utes blew that chance with a loss to the Pac-12’s other newcomer this season, Colorado—a horribly blown opportunity that could have been big for the program in their first season in the conference.
None of the Utes’ four in-conference victories came over a team with a winning record.
The Utes have had one of the nation’s worst offenses this season, ranking 110th nationally in total offense, the worst of any team playing in a bowl game. The Utes rank 31st nationally in total defense.
Georgia Tech QB Tevin Washington, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: Undrafted
Tevin Washington only has 135 pass attempts this season, but he has 222 rushing attempts. In the option offense, he is Georgia Tech’s star. He leads the Yellow Jackets with 890 rushing yards and has passed for 1,515 yards.
Washington’s passing is inconsistent, as he has completed less than half of his passing attempts this season, but many of his completions have been for big gains, and his ability as a dual threat has made him a great weapon in the Yellow Jackets offense.
Washington struggles with accuracy, but he has a big arm. He is also a very good athlete who runs the ball effectively and is a good fit to lead the Yellow Jackets. His contributions are the foundation of Georgia Tech’s offensive success, so he will need to star for the Jackets once again in the Sun Bowl.
Utah RB John White IV, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 7—Undrafted
John White has been the only consistent source of offensive production for the Utah Utes this season. On a team where no other player has rushed for more than 136 yards this season, White ranks 11th nationally in rushing yards per game with a total of 1,405 for the season.
White ranks seventh nationally with 290 rushing attempts this season. He receives a heavy workload as the main source of offense for the Utes; he leads the team in total offense.
At just 5’8’’ and 186 pounds, White is not a big or powerful back, but he has the durability to handle a workload and is a tough back to bring down. The Utes will need a big day out of him in the Sun Bowl.
Utah DT Star Lotulelei, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 4-5
Star Lotulelei is the star, no pun intended, of the Utah Utes defense. Lotulelei leads the Utes defense with nine tackles for loss this season.
Lotulelei is a mammoth at 325 pounds, an enticing nose tackle prospect at the next level. Lotulelei does a great job of stuffing the gap up front. Lotulelei makes plays happen at the line of scrimmage, sometimes on his own and sometimes by freeing up his teammates to make plays.
Keep an eye on Lotulelei to have a big impact in the Sun Bowl.
Wins vs bowl-eligible teams: Georgia Tech 3, Utah 3
Losses vs non-bowl-eligible teams: Georgia Tech 0, Utah 1
Georgia Tech’s rushing offense: Second in nation, 316.8 yards per game
Utah’s rushing defense: Eighth in nation, 98.2 yards allowed per game
Utah’s total offense: 110th in nation, 308.8 yards per game
Georgia Tech’s total defense: 45th in nation, 361.2 yards allowed per game
The matchup that will determine this game will be when Georgia Tech’s offense is on the field. With the Yellow Jackets having the nation’s second-best rushing offense but the Utes having the nation’s eighth-best rushing defense, it will be a battle of wills between two very strong units.
The Utes lack an explosive playmaking offense, so in order to have a chance at winning the Sun Bowl, their defense must make consistent stops.
The Utes have a good run defense, but the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense can wear out even the best run defenses. I think the Utes will have success in slowing Georgia Tech down early, but over the course of the game, the Yellow Jackets’ running game will open up more and more and the Utes offense will be unable to answer. Georgia Tech is the better team and should be able to win a low-scoring game.
Final Score Prediction: Georgia Tech 21, Utah 13
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