2014 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
#22 Utah Utes vs Colorado State Rams
Sam Boyd Stadium – Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday, December 20, 2014, 3:30 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Opening Line: Utah -4 1/2
Current Line: Utah -3
Opening Total: 58 1/2
Current Total: 57 1/2
Opening Money Line: Utah -185 / Colorado State +160
Current Money Line: Utah -155 / Colorado State +135
Sometimes the random nature of the college football bowl games leads to teams playing each other who have met infrequently if at all previously. That is not the case in the 2014 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl as the 8-4 Utah Utes take on the 10-2 Colorado State Rams. The two teams were longtime rivals in both the WAC and Mountain West before Utah left several seasons ago for the greener pastures of the Pac 12.
Utah went 5-4 in the Pac 12 South and tied for third with USC. The Pac 12 South has five teams currently ranked in the top 25. Colorado State went 6-2 in the Mountain West Mountain Division and finished tied for second with Utah State behind Boise State.
Utah leads the series 52-22-2 against Colorado State. The Utes have won 5 straight games against the Rams, but the teams haven’t played since Utah left for the Pac 12 in 2010.
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Utah is coached by Kyle Whittingham. The Utes are 13-4 all time in bowl games. Utah is playing in their 11th bowl game in the last 14 seasons after missing the last two seasons. The Utes have won 10 of their last 11 bowl games including 30-27 over Georgia Tech in the 2011 Sun Bowl. Utah is 2-1 all time in the Las Vegas Bowl but their last trip ended with a loss to Boise State in the 2010 edition.
Utah has home losses to Washington State 28-27, Oregon 51-27, and Arizona 42-10, along with a road loss to Arizona State 19-16 in overtime. The Utes have home wins over Idaho State 56-14, Fresno State 59-27, and USC 24-21, along with road wins at Michigan 26-10, UCLA 30-28, Oregon State 29-23 in double overtime, Stanford 20-17 in double overtime, and Colorado 38-34 in the regular season finale. After a 6-1 start, Utah went 2-3 to close out the season. The Utes are 8-4 ATS and the total is 4-7-1 this season. Utah was a 7 point favorite against Colorado and the total was 53.
Colorado State coach Jim McElwain left to take over the Florida job. Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin will serve as the interim coach for the bowl game. The Rams are 5-6 all-time in bowl games. CSU is making their first bowl appearance since a 40-35 win over Fresno State in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl. The Rams have never played in the Las Vegas Bowl before.
Colorado State has losses at Boise State 37-24 and Air Force 27-24 in the last game of the regular season. The Air Force loss snapped a 9 game winning streak for the Rams. Colorado State has a win over Colorado 31-17 in Denver, home wins over UC Davis 49-21, Tulsa 42-17, Utah State 16-13, Wyoming 45-31, Hawaii 49-22, and New Mexico 58-20. The Rams also have road wins at Boston College 24-21, Nevada 31-24, and San Jose State 38-31. Colorado State is 8-4 ATS and the total is 6-6 this season. The Rams were 7.5 point favorites against Air Force and the total was 61.5.
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Utah is outscoring teams 30-26 this season. The Utes averaging 375 yards per game on offense including 198 passing and 176 rushing yards per game. Utah is allowing 403 yards per game on defense including 245 passing and 158 rushing yards per game. The Utes are +4 in turnovers with 19 takeaways and 15 giveaways. The Utes average 43 penalty yards per game and opponents average 49. Utah is 87/216 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 82/210. The Utes have forced 52 sacks and allowed 31 this season. Utah is 32/38 scoring in the red zone with 21 touchdowns, and opponents are 33/39 with 25 touchdowns. Utah has 3 punt returns for a touchdown, a kickoff return, a fumlbe return for a TD and 3 pick sixes, and have allowed five defensive and special teams touchdowns.
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson has completed 60.3% of his passes for 2,012 yards with 17 touchdowns and 4 picks, along with 103 carries for 218 yards and 2 touchdown. Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson took a few snaps as well. He has completed 61.5% of his passes for 324 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 56 carries for 192 yards and a touchdowns. Thompson hasn’t played in the last 3 games.
Running back Devontae Booker has 266 carries for 1,350 yards and 9 touchdowns, plus 39 catches for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bubba Poole has 46 carries for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 93 yards. Receiver Kaelin Clay has 39 catches for 460 yards and 4 touchdowns, and also has 4 return touchdowns including 3 punts. Kenneth Scott has 42 catches for 445 yards and 4 touchdowns. Westlee Tonga has 29 catches for 382 yards and 4 touchdowns. Dres Anderson has 22 catches for 355 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is out for the season with a knee injury. Five defensive players are out for the Utes.
Colorado State is outscoring teams 36-23 this season. The Rams are #22 in scoring and #34 in points allowed nationally. CSU averages 498 total yards per game on offense, including 326 passing and 172 rushing yards. The Rams are #12 in total offense and #8 in passing. On defense, Colorado State is allowing 415 yards per game including 227 passing and 188 rushing yards. CSU is +3 in turnovers with 17 takeaways. The Rams average 57 penalty yards per game and opponents average 43. Colorado State is 83/162 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 75/183. The Rams have forced 18 sacks and allowed 22 this season. CSU is 39/47 scoring in the red zone with 34 touchdowns and opponents are 33/39 with 24 touchdowns.
CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson has completed 64.8% of his passes for 3,779 yards with 32 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Running back Dee Hart has 187 carries for 1,254 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 17 catches for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns. Treyous Jarrells has 81 carries for 437 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 10 catches for 81 yards. Jasen Oden Jr. has 45 catches for 264 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns, plus a receiving touchdown.
Receiver Rashard Higgins has 89 catches for 1,640 yards with 17 touchdowns. Joe Hansley has 32 catches for 524 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is probable with a concussion. Charles Lovett has 26 catches for 474 yards and 3 touchdowns. Xavier Williams has 27 catches for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns. Steven Walker has 29 catches for 277 yards and 4 touchdowns. Four defensive players are listed on the injury report.
Utah is 8-2 ATS against teams with winning records, and after allowing 280 passing yards or more, 7-2 in bowl games and in neutral site games, 9-3 against Mountain West teams, 5-2 after a straight up win and in December, and 36-17-2 in non-conference games. The favorite is 5-1-1 ATS in this series recently. The Utes are 6-1-1 ATS in the last 8 against the Rams.
Colorado State is 9-1-1 ATS after a straight up loss, and in non-conference games, 8-1 after failing to cover, 8-2 after passing for 280 yards or more, 7-2 on fieldturf, 6-2-1 after allowing over 200 rushing yards, 20-8-1 overall and 5-2 after allowing less than 170 passing yards.
If Colorado State can overcome the distraction of their head coach leaving, then I think they have a real shot of pulling off the upset. Utah has struggled down the stretch, and I think the Rams win a shootout.