POINSETTIA BOWL - San Diego, CA
CALIFORNIA (8-4) vs. #23 UTAH (9-3)
6:00 pm MT - ESPN
Cal Offense vs. Utah Defense
Utah Offense vs. Cal Defense (Ranking)
LAST BOWL APPEARANCE:
Cal: 2008 Emerald Bowl. 24-17 WIN over Miami.
All-time bowl record: 10-8
Utah: 2008 Sugar Bowl. 31-17 WIN over Alabama.
All-time bowl record: 11-3
Cal: Shane Vereen, RB; Kevin Riley, QB
Shane Vereen has filled in nicely for Cal's above average rushing offense after the injury to Jahvid Best. Utah's rush defense is solid but average, Vereen could have the opportunity to change the game.
Kevin Riley will need to play mistake-free football against the Ute defense. Utah's pass defense is 11th in the nation and is top-25 in interceptions with 15.
Utah: David Reed, WR; Stevenson Sylvester, LB
David Reed has been Utah's go-to receiver all year, and will need to have a monster game for Utah to score enough points to win. Cal's run D has been very good, but their pass D can be beaten.
Stevenson Sylvester leads the LB corp, who will need to win one-on-one battles with Cal blockers to stuff the Golden Bear run game. If they can turn Cal into a one-dimensional passing offense, Utah's superior passing defense could win the game for the Utes.
Either way you look at it, The Upset feels that Utah's pass defense will win the game for the Utes. An athletic secondary allows Utah to use man blitzes and keep enough people close for run support. These teams also only have one common opponent: on the road against Pac-10 champion Oregon. The Golden Bears were absolutely destroyed in every way in a 42-3 loss to the Ducks. On the other hand, if not for two 4th-quarter turnovers, Utah may have come out of Eugene with a win, but did lose 31-24.
While Cal's offense is capable, Utah just doesn't have any defensive holes. Cal, on the other hand, has had a lot of trouble defending the pass. Utah is on an 8-game bowl winning streak, and at 11-3 all-time in bowls, has the nation's best bowl win % of any team to play in at least 10 bowls. Coach Whittingham has furthered that, he just seems to know how to get his team to get up and play up in bowl games.
UTAH 27 ~ CALIFORNIA 17