SportsPac12: 2019 Alamo Bowl Preview
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2019 Alamo Bowl Preview

Utes Look to Restore their Dominance against Texas

—Alamo Bowl Preview—

Utah and Texas meet for only the second time in the Alamo Bowl. |

By Nicholas Bartlett, SportsPac12


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#11 Utah (11-2, 8-1) vs. Texas (7-5, 5-4)
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
4:30 p.m. PT, ESPN
Alamodome, San Antonio, TX

Straight-Up Pick: Utah in a Comfortable Win
Against the Spread: Utah (-7)


his game will determine whether Utah can reestablish itself as a Top 10 team. The impressive Utes have gone 11-2, and were a win away from a Playoff berth before losing to the Ducks. However, only five of the teams the Utes defeated this season have gone on to a bowl, and they lost to the only CFP Top 25 teams they played, in USC and Oregon. Texas, despite its middling record, may well rank among the best teams on Utah's schedule. A decisive win, giving the Utes 12 victories for the first time since 2008, would reaffirm them as one of the nation's top teams. A loss would send them plummeting downward in the final rankings.

What the Utes Must Do to Win

A lot depends on the Utes regaining their confidence after their unexpected and embarrassing loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. To reclaim their edge, they must return to what made them so dominant all year, an explosive rushing attack and smash-mouth defense. Running back Zack Moss, an NFL prospect, and potentially the best back to wear a Utah uniform, should be given the ball as often as possible. His ability to gain chunks of yardage on the ground, should open up the passing attack for quarterback Tyler Huntley against an inconsistent Longhorn secondary. His primary target, tight end Brant Kuithe, should get multiple opportunities to add to his 572 yards and six touchdowns on 31 catches. 

Utah's Tyler Huntley hands off to Zack Moss. |

On defense, the Utes need to find a way to pressure Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who has thrown for 3,462 yards and a whopping 29 touchdowns against just nine interceptions. UT’s offensive line was the worst in pass protection in the Big-12 this year. That should provide Utah defensive lineman Leki Fotu and Bradlee Anae ample opportunities to add to their sack totals against a Longhorn team that has already yielded 32. More importantly, the Utes secondary must find a way to limit explosion pass plays, despite playing without defensive backs Jaylon Johnson and Julian Blackmon. Defensive back Javelin Guidry needs to step up as the leader of the depleted group. 

What the Longhorns Must Do to Win

On offense, Texas must run the ball efficiently, as the Longhorns are 6-1 when rushing for 150 yards or more. Running backs Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson are averaging 5.7 and 5.1 yards per carry respectively, and have 1,345 yards and 13 touchdowns between them. A productive outing would prove valuable in slowing down the formidable Utah pass rush. When given time, Ehlinger must be accurate with his throws. Texas is 6-0 this year, and 13-0 over the past three seasons, when he connects on 70% or more of his passes as a starter. Unfortunately, the Utes have allowed a quarterback to hit on 70% of his passes only once this season, against USC. The UT signal caller should benefit from getting Collin Johnson back from injury: The wideout has 35 receptions for 497 yards and two touchdowns in six games.

Sam Ehlinger vs. Oklahoma.  | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images via FanDuel

Defensively, the Texas secondary has not been reliable, allowing more than 300 passing yards per game. Moreover, Utah's receiving corp presents a unique challenge: In lieu of a single elite receiver, the Utes feature six players who have caught balls for 300 yards or more. Texas must find a way to stop Moss and the rest of Utah’s rushing attack after allowing 172.7 rushing yards per game this season, or face an offensive onslaught. Leading tackler Brandon Jones, who leads UT with 86 tackles and has pulled down two picks, must play an active role in stopping the pass and the run.

What Happens on the Field

This matchup gives the senior-laden Utes an opportunity to send themselves out on the right foot after getting their egos bruised in the Pac-12 Championship. They’ll take full advantage. Huntley will throw for 200+ yards and multiple touchdowns with no interceptions. Moss will run around, over, and through tacklers en-route to a 100-yard performance. On defense, Anae and Fotu will make plays that change the course of the contest, including big sacks, tackles for loss, and forced fumbles. The Longhorns are worthy of Utah's respect, but their lack of pass protection and troubled secondary will prove too much to overcome. Utah wins this game by 10 points or more.  

NotesTexas leads the all-time series 1-0, having won the only matchup 21-12 in 1982. The Utes are 17-5-0 all-time in bowl games, with head coach Kyle Whittingham accounting for 11 of those wins and only two losses. The Alamo Bowl will mark UT's 56th all-time bowl appearance, the second-most in college football history. The Utes went 7-0 at home for the first time in their history. Texas will be playing a current member of the Pac-12 in a bowl for the 11th time. Utah held six opponents to single-digit points this season, including four without a touchdown. The Longhorns are 2-1 in the Alamo Bowl, with their last appearance a 30-7 loss to Oregon in 2013. QB Tyler Huntley is second in the FBS in completion percentage at .737, and fifth in passing efficiency at 181.9. UT is 19-2 when outrushing their opponents under head coach Tom Herman. 

Pac-12 SouthConferenceBig 12
11CFP Committee RankingN/R
34.0Points per Game35.0
13.2Points Allowed28.9
442.5Yards per Game468.8
235.5Passing Yards per Game296.2
207.0Rushing Yards per Game172.7
70.5Rushing Yards Allowed per Game139.8
185.9Passing Yards Allowed per Game306.4
256.4Yards Allowed per Game446.3
Tyler Huntley
2,966 yards (18 TDS, 4 INTS)
Passing Yardage and TD LeadersSam Ehlinger
3462 yards (29 TDs, 9 INTs),
Zack Moss
1,359 yards, 15 TDs
Rushing LeadersKeaontay Ingram
745 yards, 6 TDs
Brant Kuithe
523 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving LeadersDevin Duvernay
1,294 yards, 8 TDs
Devin Lloyd
85 total tackles
Defensive LeadersBrandon Jones
86 total tackles

Nicholas Bartlett (@WordsByBartlett) covers Pac-12 football and basketball as a Senior Writer for Bartlett also co-hosts and co-produces "The Dane & Nick Show," a SportsPac12 Radio Podcast.

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