2018 Holiday Bowl: Teams, Facts, and Pick
It’s the holiday season, which means the 2018 Holiday Bowl is among the dozens of bowl entries we will see.
Beautiful San Diego hosts this game, as it has since its founding in 1978. Not that this helps them in any way, but at least there is still a football game of note taking place in San Diego. Sorry about the Chargers, folks. The Big Ten and Pac-12 get the tie-ins and as a result, we will see two ranked teams do battle.
The #17 Utah Utes take on the #22 Northwestern Wildcats in a contest between conference championship losers. Utah could get to their tenth win while number nine is at stake for Northwestern.
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2018 Holiday Bowl: This Year’s Bowl Info
|Monday, December 31, 2018, 7:00pm ET (4:00pm PT)|
|SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, California|
|Broadcast on Fox Sports 1|
|$6,326,258 payout (Link: College Football Poll)|
|Utah is a 7-point favorite|
2018 Holiday Bowl: Northwestern Wildcats
|8-5 (8-1 Big Ten); Big Ten West champions|
|Lost Big Ten Championship to Ohio State|
|Best Win: Iowa|
|Offensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Offense 107th, Total Offense 106th, Rushing Offense 118th, 3rd Downs 63rd, Time of Possession 65th, Turnover Margin 56th, Sacks Allowed 107th, Red Zone 72nd|
|Defensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Defense 39th, Total Defense 63rd, Rushing Defense 32nd, Opponent 3rd Downs 43rd, Sacks Per Game 107th, TFL Per Game 82nd, Interceptions 65th, Opponent Red Zone 40th|
|Special Teams Ranks (out of 130): Field Goal Kicking 115th, Punts Per Game 33rd|
2018 Holiday Bowl: Utah Utes
|9-4 (6-3 Pac-12); Pac-12 South champions|
|Lost Pac-12 Championship to Washington|
|Best Wins: Oregon and Stanford|
|Offensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Offense 66th, Total Offense 70th, Rushing Offense 51st, 3rd Downs 76th, Time of Possession 62nd, Turnover Margin 68th, Sacks Allowed 80th, Red Zone 11th|
|Defensive Ranks (out of 130): Scoring Defense 16th, Total Defense 15th, Rushing Defense 4th, Opponent 3rd Downs 24th, Sacks Per Game 27th, TFL Per Game 9th, Interceptions 22nd, Opponent Red Zone 1st|
|Special Teams Ranks (out of 130): Field Goal Kicking 24th, Punts Per Game 81st|
2018 Holiday Bowl: Head-to-Head
Northwestern and Utah have played twice before, with each school picking up a win.
It has been since 1981 that these two teams met. (Link: Winsipedia)
2018 Holiday Bowl: Pick
Neither team was favored to win their respective Pac-12 or Big Ten championships, but if they had, we would have still had this matchup in the Rose Bowl. Instead, they got sort of a consolation-prize Rose Bowl down I-5 in San Diego.
On the eye test alone, Utah is superior, and that’s not because they are ranked five spots higher. The offense is better (though not great) and the defense is better (though both are fine). Might we want to adjust the numbers a little based on the Pac-12 being down? Perhaps a bit, but they still played Washington twice as well as Oregon and Wazzu.
Northwestern has relied heavily on Clayton Thorson at quarterback, with his 459 pass attempts or 35 per game. As such, he has a high number of interceptions at 14 but the touchdowns are only one better at 15. He has given mixed results in what was overall not a good offense. Thorson also took too many sacks and the run game never established itself, which tells you what you need to know about their offensive line. Isaiah Bowser had some good games here and there, though his yards per carry were all over the map.
Utah’s starting quarterback had been Tyler Huntley, who missed the final four games of the season. The possibility exists that he will play but coach Kyle Whittingham will not say until game time. (Link: Deseret News) If he does not, freshman Jason Shelley has been uneven in relief, showing some mobility but throwing too many interceptions.
The Wildcats beat up most of the Big Ten, fortunately coming from the weaker West Division with Wisconsin being a major disappointment. Defense helped them quite a bit with some low opposing point totals going up, in particular against the lesser teams they faced. Ohio State rocked them for 45, which was to be expected.
This has the feel of a low-scoring game. Thorson is probably going to get planted by the Utah pass rush a few times and Northwestern will have limited success running the ball against the Utes’ top five rush defense. If Utah wins, it is not likely to be pretty. Should Northwestern win, less pretty.