Georgia Tech-Utah Preview

Georgia Tech’s string of 15 consecutive bowl appearances is tied
for the fourth-longest active run among FBS programs.

While that streak is certainly of note, it’s another one that’s
surely left a bad taste in the mouths of the Yellow Jackets.

Trying to avoid a seventh consecutive postseason loss, Georgia
Tech faces Utah in the Sun Bowl on Saturday in El Paso, Texas.

The Yellow Jackets (8-4), who opened 6-0 for the first time
since 1966, went on to lose four of their final six games –
including a 31-17 defeat to in-state rival Georgia in their
regular-season finale. With its efforts over the second-half of the
season leaving plenty to be desired, Georgia Tech doesn’t carry
much momentum into what it’s hoping will be its first bowl victory
since defeating Syracuse 51-14 in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl.

“It’s something no one here has done,” said defensive end Jason
Peters, one of just four seniors to start on defense. “No one here
has won a bowl game. It would be an exciting thing for us to go do.
It would be a chance to do better with something that we know has
been plaguing Georgia Tech for a long time.”

The Utes (7-5), in contrast, have experienced plenty of
postseason success under coach Kyle Whittingham, who’s gone 6-1 in
bowl games – highlighted by a victory as co-head coach in the 2005
Fiesta Bowl that capped an undefeated season.

“We’re proud that yet another Utah senior class will be playing
in its fourth postseason game, and that is a testament to the
commitment our players bring to the program year in and year out.”
Whittingham said.

Utah got off to a slow start in its first season as a member of
the Pac-12, losing four of seven to begin the season – including
its first four in conference play. The Utes, however, would go on
to post four straight wins over conference foes and had a chance to
win the South division before concluding their regular-season
schedule with a 17-14 loss to Colorado.

While Utah found itself in a state of flux after starting
quarterback Jordan Wynn suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in
a 31-14 loss to Washington on Oct. 1, Jon Hays has filled in nicely
under center, throwing for 1,110 yards and eight touchdowns over
eight starts.

It’s been versatile running back John White, though, who has
carried the offense, finishing ninth nationally in the regular
season with 1,404 rushing yards to go along with 16 total
touchdowns. White, a first-year junior college transfer, could be
in for a big day versus a Yellow Jackets defense which ranks tied
for 70th in the country with an average of 162.9 rushing yards
allowed.

The Utes are giving up the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game
(98.3) but will have their hands full with Georgia Tech’s
triple-option offense. The Yellow Jackets compiled an average of
316.8 yards on the ground – the third-highest total in the FBS.

“It’ll be a huge challenge in the football game, I think it
matches up,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “If you look at
statistics, they have one of the top defenses in the country, so it
will be a huge challenge for us offensively.”

Running backs David Sims and Orwin Smith ran for 698 and 616
yards, respectively, while junior quarterback Tevin Washington led
the team with 890. The tremendous trio combined for 32 rushing
TDs.

“As a former defensive coordinator, (Georgia Tech’s) offense is
a defensive coordinator’s nightmare,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got
our work cut out for us. It’s the type of offense you can never
really shut down, you just hope to slow it down enough to stay
competitive in the game.”

Utah took the only previous meeting, 38-10 in the 2005 Emerald
Bowl.

The Yellow Jackets, making their 40th bowl appearance in school
history, are 22-17 all-time in the postseason. Utah, which has gone
12-4, had won nine in a row before suffering a 26-3 defeat to Boise
State in last season’s Las Vegas Bowl.