El Paso has been the home of a bowl game for more than 75 years. Utah played in one of the very first Sun Bowls, and now the Utes come back as a member of one of the BCS conferences for the first time. On New Year’s Eve, Utah will face Georgia Tech of the ACC in the 78th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl.
The only time these two teams have played each other came in the 2005 Emerald Bowl in Seattle, with Utah posting a 38-10 win over a nationally ranked Georgia Tech squad. The Utes’ only other Sun Bowl appearance came in 1939 with a 26-0 victory over New Mexico.
Our live Sun Bowl spread has Georgia Tech as a 3-point chalk, while the over/under has been set for 51 points.
The Yellow Jackets began the year 6-0, but struggled to a 2-4 finish, capped by a 31-17 defeat to in-state rival Georgia in the last game. The team did beat Duke, 38-31, in its conference finale to end up tied for second in the ACC Coastal Division (5-3). Tech was 3-2 away from home this season.
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets rank 19th in the nation in scoring (35 points per contest) while totaling 462 yards of offense per game (319 on the ground, 143 through the air).
The spread-option ground game is anchored by three players quarterback Tevin Washington with 890 yards and 14 scores (4.0 yards per tote), David Sims with 698 yards and seven touchdowns (5.2 ypc) and Orwin Smith with 616 yards and 11 scores (10.3 ypc). Washington connects on 57 percent of his throws for 1,515 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight picks. His top receiver is Stephen Hill with 26 receptions for 785 yards and four scores.
Defensively, Georgia Tech ranks 60th in scoring (26 ppg) and surrenders 361 yards per game (198 through the air, 163 via the rush) while totaling 20 sacks and enticing 20 turnovers two of which were returned for touchdowns (Rod Sweeting and Isaiah Johnson, picks).
Julian Burnett paces the defense with 113 tackles (44 more than any other player), chipping in a sack, a forced fumble and a recovery, while Jeremiah Attaochu has six sacks, 52 stops, a pick, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
The Utes’ first year as a Pac-12 member started unevenly, but steadied with a late four-game win streak that ended with a 17-14 defeat to Colorado to end the season tied for third in the Pac-12 South Division (4-5). Utah did notch a 4-2 record away from home, winning the last two and three of four.
The Utes are one of the better defensive squads in the nation, ranking 18th nationally in points allowed (20 ppg) and allowing 343 yards per game (246 via the pass, 97 via the rush) while totaling 30 sacks and forcing 32 turnovers four of which were taken back for scores (V.J. Fehoko and Derrick Shelby, fumbles; Shelby and Conroy Black, interceptions).
Chaz Walker anchors the defensive unit with 103 tackles (27 more than anyone else), adding two forced fumbles, while Black has four picks, 35 tackles and a fumble recovery. Shelby and Trevor Reilly each have five sacks and combined for 87 tackles, four forced fumbles, three recoveries and a pick.