Utah vs. Northwestern prediction: Las Vegas Bowl odds, pick, best bet
Neither Utah nor Northwestern had the seasons most had projected, but thats the beauty of college football.
The Utes were expected to weather the storm early, then compete for the Pac-12 title once quarterback Cameron Rising came back from injury.
Well, Rising who is slated to return to the Utes in 2024 ended up missing the entire season, so Utah never reached its ceiling.
Conversely, not many expected Northwestern to win its way to bowl eligibility after an offseason hazing scandal that shook the program and resulted in a coaching change.
After all that, the 8-4 Utes meet the 7-5 Wildcats in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.
Utah vs. Northwestern prediction
(7:30 p.m. ET. ABC)
A large percentage of the betting oney is on the Wildcats as underdogs, but that money was bet early when Northwestern opened as a 9.5-point favorite. The number has since been steamed down through the key number of 7 and now sits at 6.5.
As a result, I see value in backing the Utes at -6.5.
Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes is set to transfer but has agreed to stick around for the bowl.
Barnes isnt the most dynamic quarterback he threw for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns this season but he gives the Utes offense continuity.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. APThat cant be understated in bowl season as teams are often running out groups of players who didnt play together much during the regular season.
The Utes, after starting the season 6-1, limped to the finish and went 2-3 down the stretch. However, they were severely banged-up, and the gap between the end of the regular season and the bowl game should do wonders for their health.
I also dont like betting against Kyle Whittingham with extra time to prepare, although Utah has lost four straight bowl game, including one to Northwestern (2018 Holiday Bowl).
Despite Utahs lack of recent bowl success, Whittingham has the coaching edge over David Braun, who was hired to be Northwesterns defensive coordinator in January and then took over as head coach after Pat Fitzgerald was fired.
Leading Northwestern to seven wins as a first-time head coach is impressive, but the resumes between the two coaches arent close.
Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant (2) passes under pressure. Icon Sportswire via Getty ImagesAdditionally, the talent on the rosters is also a mismatch. Utah has the better roster and has put up better numbers this season.
The Utes outpace the Wildcats in rushing yards per game, yards per carry, yards per game and points per game. Theyre also better on defense in points per game allowed and yards per game allowed, despite facing better offenses.
Statistically, all signs point to the Utes. If this were a regular-season game in the middle of October, Id be all over Utah.
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However, its a bowl game, which means we need to question motivation. Northwestern wasnt supposed to be here and won four of its final five games, while Utah had preseason dreams of winning the Pac-12.
Ultimately, I think Barnes decision to play in this game shows that he and his teammates want to finish the season strong. Barnes could have easily called it quits once he hit the portal, but hes choosing to stay.
Im buying into that and backing the Utes.
Pick: Utah -6.5 (-110, BetMGM)
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