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What to watch for: Utah vs. Georgia Tech

What to watch for: Utah vs. Georgia Tech

By Trevor Amicone, Contributor | Posted - Dec. 29, 2011 at 12:04 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Last year, after the Utes slipped by the Air Force Academy to set up a monster match-up with TCU, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham could not communicate how relieved he was to be done playing the Falcons. Why? Air Force runs the triple option, one of the most miserable offenses to prepare for in football.

Well, as Lee Corso might say, not so fast my friend. Just as the Utes thought they were getting away from the dreaded triple option, they draw the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. The Yellow Jackets run almost the same offense as the Falcons do but with some twists. We look at five storylines to look for as the Utes face the triple option again in El Paso on Saturday.

Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington. (AP 
Photo/Rich Addicks)
Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington. (AP Photo/Rich Addicks)

1. Strength vs. strength. Behind the triple option, the Yellow Jackets boast the third-best run offense in the nation, averaging 316.8 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, the Utes’ run defense is one of the most stout in the country. Under Whittingham, both as a defensive coordinator and a head coach, Utah’s defense has always been solid against the run. That hasn’t changed this year, with the Utes only giving up an average of 98.3 yards per game, ranking seventh in the nation in that category. One of these teams' strength has to give in this ground battle. Who will it be?2. Getting back on track. Both teams would like to get back on track this bowl season. Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has led the Yellow Jackets to three straight bowl games, but the Yellow Jackets have lost all three of them. So Georgia Tech wants to get back in the bowl win column. Meanwhile, the Utes had their nine-game bowl winning streak snapped last year when Boise State beat them in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Utes would like to start a new winning streak in the Sun Bowl against the Yellow Jackets.

Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham ,right, and 
Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow talk during 
practice. (Deseret News)
Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham ,right, and Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow talk during practice. (Deseret News)

3. What does Utah’s offense look like with Norm Chow on his way out? It is going to be really difficult to forecast what the Ute offense will do in this game. Usually the offense performs well in bowl games, having had so long to prepare. This year, however, Ute offensive coordinator Norm Chow was hired as the head coach at Hawaii. Chow will call the plays for the Utes in the bowl game, but will that distraction have hurt Utah’s offensive preparation preparing for the Yellow Jackets? We shall see on Saturday.4. Injury question marks. The Utes had a couple of key injuries in their last game of the season against Colorado. The biggest of all was the ankle injury to star running back John White IV. Defensive end Joe Kruger and offensive lineman Sam Brenner also were injured in that game. Utah has said that all three of them are back to 100 percent and will play against Georgia Tech. Obviously it is huge for the Utes to have White back, but having one of his key blockers back on the offensive line will also be important. Having Kruger back will also be key against the powerful Georgia Tech running attack.

5. Key match-up: Utah offense vs. Georgia Tech defense. When a match-up is hyped up as much as the match-up on the other side of the ball (Utah defense vs. Georgia Tech offense), it is usually the match-up on the other side of the ball that determines the game. This game should be no different. The Utes should be able to move the ball on Georgia Tech, which has struggled all year against the power run game and has one of the worst pass defenses in the nation. If the Utes can do what they do best (run the ball effectively), then they should be able to win this game.

Trevor Amicone is the sports director at 88.1 Weber FM, "Ogden's Radio Station," and host of the sports talk radio show, "Fully Loaded Sports with Trevor Amicone." Follow his Twitter feed at @TrevorAmicone

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