Utah vs. West Virginia: Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Utah vs. West Virginia: Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

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Utah vs. West Virginia: Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Three reasons why you should watch the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.

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Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Utah (6-6) vs. West Virginia (7-5)


Date: Tuesday, December 26th
Game Time: 1:30 pm
Venue: Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas, TX
Network: ESPN

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The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
(1 best-39 worst): 
22 out of 39

2017-2018 Bowl Central: Schedules, Picks, Love
CFN Expert Consensus Confidence Picks

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

It’ll be a Wake ‘n’ Watch for some parts of the country. You’re getting the day off after Christmas, and you don’t really have all that much to do. On a day of three bowl games, this kicks things off as the first bowl game in a wee bit of a drought. The two offenses – in their own way – should be ready to gear it up in a triple-header bowl day. 

If you’re interested in seeing the 2018 West Virginia Mountaineers, you’re in luck. They might be missing a slew of the key elements of the offense, but the most of the other pieces are in place from what should be one of the Big 12’s better teams next season. There’s going to be a Nobody Believes In Us attitude considering the backfield will be a shadow of its midseason self.

Utah always brings the bowl effort. More on this in a moment, but the team never comes in flat under head coach Kyle Whittingham when it comes to the post-season. The Utes don’t just win bowl games; they play tough in tight battles, with three of their last four decided by a touchdown or less. This year’s team is just the right blend of good and mediocre to make sure this is close.

Here’s Why Utah Will Win The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

Does West Virginia have any players left? RB Justin Crawford is sitting this out to be in one piece for the NFL, and star QB Will Grier is almost certainly out injured. If WR David Sills sits, that means the top three offensive weapons will be on the sidelines. Even with them, the Mountaineer offense was hardly consistent.

West Virginia doesn’t have its quarterback; Utah does – maybe. Tyler Huntley missed the win over Colorado with a shoulder injury, but he’s supposed to be back and ready to go. The team might have struggled this year, but Huntley was a total offense machine, throwing for 2,246 yards with 15 scores – hitting the 200-yard mark seven times – and taking off for 480 yards and four touchdowns. He’s not Baker Mayfield – there are too many picks – but he’s got the same type of baller game.

Even though Utah adjusted the offense a bit to be more explosive, the basic elements that make Utah, Utah should work. The Utes are still great when it comes to time of possession, and West Virginia isn’t. The Ute offense is still strong on third downs; West Virginia isn’t. Utah should be able to control the tempo throughout.

Here’s Why West Virginia Will Win The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

Utah throws a lot of picks. Huntley might be magnificent when he’s on, but when he starts going the ball away, Utah loses. He threw four interceptions in the loss to Arizona State, and gave away three in the loss to Washington State. West Virginia is 3-0 on the year when coming up with two picks.

The Mountaineer offensive line has come up with a terrific season. Utah doesn’t have the killer pass rush of past seasons – there just isn’t enough pressure being generated. OT Yodny Cajuste and the strong West Virginia front should give QB Chris Chugunov and the rest of the backfield plenty of time to work.

The running game should be just fine, even without Crawford. Kennedy McKoy is a solid back who took off for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to Oklahoma in the regular season finale, and Martell Pettaway is a decent option to take some of the heat off. The more the ground game can work to take the heat off of Chugunov, the better.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl

There are awesome teams in bowl games, and there’s Utah. The Utes lost the 2010 Maaco Las Vegas to Boise State, and that’s been it since losing to Wisconsin and Ron Dayne in the 1996 Copper. The Utes are 13-1 in bowls since then, winning the last four, including last season’s Foster Farms over Indiana. On the flip side …

West Virginia is lousy in bowls. There were those few insane exceptions – the 70-33 win over Clemson in the 2012 Orange, and the 43-42 win over Arizona State in the 2016 Cactus – but the Mountaineers are 2-5 in their last seven going back to 2008. Without a slew of their offensive stars, they’re going to need to buck history.

There’s a chance this could be wild. Both defenses are just okay, not great, and both offenses have the schemes and the weapons – even without the stars on the West Virginia side – to make this a shootout. It’s up to the Mountaineers. If they start airing this out from the start, Utah should be able to more than keep up. Hope for the two teams to trade some big shots.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl?

The missing pieces are going to matter. Utah has its quarterback, and West Virginia doesn’t.

The Mountaineer defense will come up with an inspired effort, but it won’t be enough in key stretches when the Utah offense produces when absolutely needed.

The Utes lost to USC, Stanford and Washington by a combined score of seven points, and they hung around with Washington before collapsing late – they’re better than their record. Don’t mess with a streak or a trend – Utah knows how to win bowl games.

Final Score

Utah 37, West Virginia 27
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets


Utah -7, o/u: 56.5

ATS Confidence: 3
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 3
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Heart of Dallas Bowl History, Results

Dec. 27, 2016 Army 38, North Texas 31 OT
Dec. 26, 2015 Washington 44 Southern Miss 31
Dec. 26, 2014 Louisiana Tech 35 Illinois 18
Jan. 1, 2014 North Texas 36 UNLV 14
Jan. 1, 2013 Oklahoma State 58 Purdue 14
Jan. 2, 2012 Houston 30 Penn State 14
Jan. 1, 2011 Texas Tech 45 Northwestern 38

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