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Hobbled Utah Takes On Northwestern In The 2018 Holiday Bowl

by Daniel Gerbick on Monday, December 31st, 2018

northwestern vs utah 2018Two ranked teams meet tonight in the 2018 Holiday Bowl as the No. 22 Northwestern Wildcats (8-5) take on the No. 17 Utah Utes (9-4) in San Diego.

Northwestern has a legitimate defense that held Wisconsin’s running back Jonathan Taylor to under 50 yards rushing in their 31-17 win over the Badgers. That was the only time that Taylor was held to less than 100 rushing yards in a game this season.

Northwestern is a team that plays clean, efficient, and tough football as doesn’t turn the ball over very often and have a real leader in quarterback Clayton Thornson.

Expect Thornson to have a real tough game against a very aggressive and physical Utah defense that held opponents to 10 or fewer points in six separate games this season, including their 10-3 loss to the Washington Huskies in the PAC 12 Conference Championship, where the Utes missed their starting quarterback and running back.

The status of Utah’s starting quarterback Tyler Huntley is still unknown but the last reports hinted that it’s highly doubtful he’ll be able to step on the field. Also, Utah will still be without both its leading rusher Zack Moss and leading receiver Britain Covey, both of whom suffered season-ending injuries in November.

Freshman Jason Shelley, who has a 3-1 record as a starter since Huntley went down, will most likely once again be under center. He has passed for 860 yards and three touchdowns with four picks in that span, but three of those came against the Huskies.

Shelley also has three rushing touchdowns, but he will find it hard to run on a Utah defense that ranks fifth nationally against the rush.

Utah is dealing with too many injuries at the skill positions so expect this game to be a lot closer than it should really be. Although their defense may make enough of a difference to give them the win, the Utes could have problems scoring against a Northwestern defense that can hold its own.

Prediction: Northwestern 17 – 24 Utah

 

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