2014 Las Vegas Bowl Picks: Utah vs. Colorado State Odds and Expert Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 12/15/2014
The Las Vegas Bowl is part of the first day of bowl season. While many of the early bowl matchups come with very little intrigue, I think there's a lot to like about this game. The Utah Utes put together a nice season in a very good Pac-12 Conference. Colorado State flew under the radar a bit this year, but their 10-2 record was no fluke. These are both quality teams, and this is likely to be one of the best early bowl games.
The Las Vegas Bowl has been around since 1992. Three of the last four Las Vegas Bowls have been blowouts. In 2012, Boise State and Washington squared off in a game where the Broncos edged out the Huskies 28-26. Last year, USC blew away Fresno State 45-20. This is Colorado State's first time taking part in the Las Vegas Bowl. Utah is no stranger to this game. The Utes are making their fourth appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Utes are 2-1 all-time in this bowl, but their most recent appearance was a 26-3 loss to Boise State in 2010.
Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Colorado State Story Lines
The single biggest story line for this game is Jim McElwain leaving the Colorado State program to take over at Florida. McElwain did a tremendous job at Colorado State in his three years with the school. McElwain was the offensive coordinator at Alabama when he was hired by Colorado State to be the top man. He took over a program that was headed in the wrong direction. The Rams went 3-9 in McElwain's first year. They improved to 8-6, including a win in the New Mexico Bowl last year. He coached them to a 10-2 record this year before leaving to take over as the Gators head coach. With McElwain's background in the SEC, it shouldn't come as a big surprise that he took the job at Florida. It will now be up to Colorado State to find someone who can continue what McElwain started. Dave Baldwin, who has been an assistant with the school for the past three years, was named the interim coach for Colorado State.
Kyle Whittingham has earned a lot of respect since taking over as head coach at Utah in 2005. He was defensive coordinator for Urban Meyer during his time at Utah. Whittingham's teams always play hardnosed football. This Utes team isn't going to be outmuscled by anyone. They are also strong in the trenches. Whittingham led the team to a perfect record in 2008, and their stunning win over Alabama led to them finishing No. 2 in the AP Top 25 that season. The move to the Pac-12 was expected to cause some growing pains, and it did initially. Utah went 5-7 in consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. The Utes weren't expected to be a team that made a bowl game this year. In fact, oddsmakers had the Utes season win total set at 4.5 wins. Utah outperformed expectations this year to get to eight wins and this bowl contest.
The matchup to watch in this game is the Colorado State offensive line against the Utah defensive line. Colorado State's offensive line has been dinged up all year long. The Rams have had to put a bunch of different combinations together all year to get to this point, and the unit as a whole has performed very admirably. The Rams are still down two offensive line starters, and that could be a key in this game as they go up against the best defensive line they have faced all year. How good is this Utah defensive line? Utah is first in the nation in sacks with a whopping 52 sacks on the season thus far. The Utes have two guys in the Top 10 in the nation in the individual sacks category. Nate Orchard is second in the nation with 17.5 sacks. Hunter Dimick has 10 sacks on the year. Orchard and Dimick are both defensive ends for the Utes. That means this banged up Colorado State offensive line is going to have to protect their quarterback from both strong edge rushers for the Utes.
Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Colorado State Betting Odds and Trends
At BetDSI, Utah was installed as four-point favorites in this one. The Utes are still four point favorites here, so there has been no real line movement in this game. The posted total opened at 58.5 points at Bookmaker, and currently it still sits right at 58.5 points. This has been one of most stable lines of any so far this bowl season.
Utah is 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 games vs. a team with a winning record. The Utes are 7-2 ATS in their last nine bowl games. They are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 vs. a Mountain West Conference team. Colorado State is 9-1-1 ATS in their last 11 nonconference games. The "over" is 4-0 in Colorado State's last four bowl games. The over is also 4-1 in Utah's last five bowl games.
2014 Las Vegas Bowl Picks: Utah vs. Colorado State Expert Betting Predictions
How will Colorado State respond to not having their head coach around for this one? That's always hard to gauge, but they certainly have a tough test ahead of them. Colorado State won a lot of games this year, but playing against a Pac-12 team is a big step up in competition compared to the Mountain West. I think the Utes defensive line causes all kinds of problems for Colorado State's beat-up offensive front here. Look for Utah to win this one in the trenches. Lay the four points with the Utes in this one.
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