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.