Ryan Mayer

The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

West Virginia (7-5) vs. Utah (6-6)

Spread: Utah -7

Total: 57

Spread: The Mountaineers can score with the best of them, but they are dinged up pretty good heading into this game. Starting QB Will Grier is doubtful as he’s dealing with a finger injury, a pair of offensive linemen are questionable as is kicker Mike Molina. Backup QB Chris Chugunov struggled in his starts against Texas and Oklahoma, but with the benefit of a couple weeks to practice for this bowl game, he should be better. RB Justin Crawford (191 carries 1,060 yards 7 TD) and WR David Sills (60 receptions 980 yards 18 TD) will help out, and Coach Holgorsen’s scheme has done pretty well over the years regardless of the people running it. The big question is whether the defense can help out the offense by getting some stops, something they weren’t able to do a lot of during the year as they gave up over 31 points and 450 yards per game, granted, in the wide open Big 12.

Utah is dealing with its own injury issues as QB Tyler Huntley is questionable for this game along with defensive end Kylie Fitts. But, the Utes have succeeded this season due to their running game with bowling ball RB Zack Moss going over 1,000 yards on the year and tallying nine touchdowns. West Virginia has struggled to stop the run this year (200 YPG allowed) and Moss could have a big day. Defensively, the Utes put up the exact same number in the scoring defense department this year as last, allowing 23.9 points per outing. Opposing QBs have completed just 57 percent of their passes this season, while the Utes have allowed under 140 yards per game on the ground.

Utah was 8-3-1 ATS this year and the Mountaineers were 6-6. The big number that stands out here though is their respective records as a favorite and underdog. The Utes were 6-2 as the favorite this season while the Mountaineers were just 1-3 as underdogs, with that one “win” being a cover against TCU when they were 12 point dogs and lost by a touchdown. Yes, both teams are banged up, but Utah is a little healthier at this point, which has us leaning Utes. Combine that with the fact that West Virginia has been outscored 87-45 in the two games Chugunov has started and the Utes are the pick. Utah -7

Total: The Mountaineers games have tended to be shootouts this year and that led to them going 7-4-1 against the number this season while Utah went 6-6. The Mountaineers defense has me thinking over, as Moss could get going in a big way in this game. Over 57


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