by Sean Zerillo – Wannamakeabet Staff Writer
THE PICK (2017 ATS: 6-2; ML: 1-0) (4-1 Favorites; 3-1 Underdogs)
Utah Utes vs. West Virginia Mountaineers, 1:30 PM (Dallas, TX)
Against the Spread: Utah (8-3), West Virginia (5-6)
Current Line: Utah -6.5, O/U 56
Open: Utah -4.5, O/U 56
Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham has an incredible 10-1 straight up record in bowl games, including victories each of the past three years, and he hasn’t ended a season with a losing record since 2013.
At 6-6, Utah is aiming for a winning record and four straight bowl victories, and standing in their way is a high scoring Mountaineers squad that’s down its star Quarterback Will Grier (who broke his hand against Texas) and Running Back Justin Crawford (who is sitting out to prep for the draft). Redshirt Sophomore QB Chris Chugunov is a major downgrade from Grier and will force West Virginia to rely on their running game and specialty packages including the wildcat to move the ball.
Utah can be expected to control the pace of the game behind their giant offensive line, dual threat Sophomore QB Tyler Huntley, and 1,000 yard sophomore rusher Zack Moss. Their defense is also above average under the defensive minded Whittingham; it ranks roughly 50-60 spots higher in efficiency than West Virginia’s below average defense depending on the advanced metric.
Whittingham has the track record to have his team prepared, and treats bowl season like a second fall camp. And West Virginia is just not the same animal on offense without Grier, who will be a Heisman candidate next season. They fell behind 45-10 to Oklahoma by halftime and largely used the Wildcat to grind out three second half touchdowns in a 59-31 beatdown.
The public has bought more West Virginia tickets in this one, but the big money is backing Utah – and so am I
Utah -6.5 (-110)
Sean Zerillo is the author and creator of www.sportsvigilante.com/. You can also follow him on Twitter @Sp0rtsVigilante