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2014 Las Vegas Bowl Preview

Colorado State (10-2, 6-2 Mountain West) vs. Utah (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12)

Date: Saturday, December 20
Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Stadium: Sam Boyd Stadium (40,000)
Television: ABC
Series Record: Utah leads 55-22-2
Last Meeting: 10/23/10: Utah 59 Colorado State 6 (Salt Lake City, UT)

This will mark the 80th meeting between these programs, but the first since Utah departed the Mountain West for the Pac-12 following the 2010 season. The Utes and Rams met annually from 1999-2010 when they were conference mates and Utah has dominated the series of late having won five straight and seven of the last eight.

Utah, which competes in the Pac-12 South—one of the toughest divisions in college football along with the SEC West, started the season at 6-1, but lost three of five to close the regular season.

Meanwhile, Colorado State—under the guidance of third-year head coach and new Florida boss Jim McElwain—produced a ten-win season for the first time since 2002 and just the fifth time in school history. After suffering a 37-24 loss at Mountain West Conference divisional foe Boise State in week two, the Rams reeled off nine straight victories—putting themselves among the candidates for the Group of Five’s selection committee bowl spot—before dropping a 27-24 decision to Air Force in their regular season finale’.

With McElwain’s departure to Gainesville, offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin is serving as the interim head coach for the Las Vegas Bowl. Baldwin’s offensive unit has been one of the nation’s most prolific. Colorado State is posting 37 points and 500 yards per game—including 323 through the air.

Rams’ signal-caller Garrett Grayson has passed for more than 3,400 yards and 29 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions.

Rashard Higgins is Grayson’s top target and has nearly 1,500 yards receiving. He has 77 receptions—15 of which have been for touchdowns—and averages nearly 19 yards per catch.

The CSU offense is far from one-dimensional as Dee Hart has run for 1,139 yards (6.9 ypc) and 16 scores while Treyous Jarrells also has yielded 437 yards (5.4 ypc) and six touchdowns.

Defensively, the Rams have been more of the bend, but don’t break variety. They surrender nearly 420 yards per game—including 182 on the ground—but only 23 points.
Trent Matthews and Tyree Simmons are tied for the team lead with three interceptions.

Senior linebacker Aaron Davis leads the team with 104 tackles while fellow backer Corey James leads the team in tackles for losses (7.5) and sacks (5.5).

With CSU struggling to stop the run at times, Utah’s Devontae Booker (1,350; 5.1 ypc; 9 TD) could have a big day and help keep the powerful Rams’ offense off the field.
Utes’ quarterback Travis Wilson, who stands 6’7”, has completed 60 percent of his passes while throwing for just over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. Wilson has been intercepted just four times.

In the kicking game, the Rams must be wary of Kaelin Clay. Clay has taken three punts back for touchdowns while also taking a kickoff 100 yards to the house.
Utah struggled down the stretch, but its ability to run the football and keep the potent CSU attack on the sidelines will allow them to pull out a thriller in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Prediction: Utah 34 - Colorado State 27


By Thomas Rosenbaum
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