The Utah Utes are 8-3-1 against the spread in 2017, and their Heart Of Dallas Bowl opponent West Virginia is 5-7 ATS. That means that the former has consistently out-played expectations while the latter has not, and has a lot to do with Utah being a (-7) point spread favorite.
But we can also thank the bettors. Opening odds were tighter, but the action has driven the line 2 1/2 points in the Utes’ direction since wagering began. For whatever reason, gamblers think the Pac-12 representative is by far the stronger of the pair.
The Mountaineers’ record, however, is 7-5 while the Utes didn’t manage to get above .500. Clearly, the teams deserve a closer look before an impulse-wager is made based on a lone trend.
Injuries could be the tipping point. West Virginia’s quarterback and kicker are each dealing with injuries, and we can say with assurance that those are crucial positions on a football team. There is trouble at RB too.
Who: Utah Utes vs West Virginia Mountaineers
When: Tuesday, December 26th, 1:30 PM EST
Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX
Lines: Utah (-7) vs WVU (+7) / O/U Total: (56)
With potentially 2 key cogs knocked out of the scrum in Dallas, WVU head coach Dana Holgorson is lucky to have a 2nd option at PK. Frosh kicker Evan Staley has played well in relief of starter Mike Molina.
But it might not be such a rosy adjustment at QB. A few days ago, Grier was ruled out of the game due to a severe finger injury. The junior has been a prolific passer in ’17, though Holgorson’s high-tech, wide-open offense always tends to jack-up a passer’s stats. The problem is that there isn’t a proven-quality backup available. Sophomore Chrish Chugunov has protected the egg well in limited action, but only passed for 1 touchdown through 8 quarters in the team’s recent losses to Texas and Oklahoma, and has nowhere near the accuracy of the missing starter.
Will the Utes take full advantage? Utah ended the year on a high note with a 34-13 win over CU and looked impressive against every ranked team on the schedule, losing to Stanford, USC, Washington and Washington State by a combined 15 points. The defense isn’t elite, but competent at 3 levels and capable of excellent games against mid-tier opponents like West Virginia.
Mountaineer RB Justin Crawford will be sitting out to protect his NFL draft status, and all-too-common phenomenon in this era. The Utes’ opponents may have their 3 more important scoring players out, meaning that it should take only 30-35 points to cover the spread against them. Players like QB Tyler Huntley and talented rusher Zack Moss should be up to the challenge.
We like Utah to cover thanks to the missing parts for WVU. The Mountaineers tend to run hot and cold anyway, and we’re thinking they’ll end up icy the Cotton Bowl.