The Northwestern Wildcats (8-5) battle the Utah Utes (9-4) on Monday night in the 2018 Holiday Bowl from San Diego. Kickoff is set for 7:00 PM EST on Monday, December 31st at SDCCU Stadium. The game will be televised on FS1.
Taking a look at the full list of college bowl betting odds, Utah is currently listed as a 6.5-point favorite. The total for the game is sitting at 45 points.
Holiday Bowl Vegas Odds Preview: Utah vs Northwestern
Northwestern won three out of their last four games to close out the season, clinching a spot in a bowl game after a 24-14 win over Minnesota in mid-November. The Wildcats are coming off a lopsided loss though, as they were on the wrong end of a 45-24 drubbing by Ohio State to close out their season. QB Clayton Thorson had an up and down season, throwing for almost 3,000 yards and 15 touchdowns but getting picked off 14 times. He certainly isn’t a threat on the ground, although he did score nine touchdowns on goal-line plunges. RB Isaiah Bowser was outstanding in his freshman season, averaging 113 yards per game during seven starts and gaining 796 total yards on the ground. WR Flynn Nagel is the biggest threat for Northwestern through the air, although he was injured in the game against the Golden Gophers and his status for the Holiday Bowl is still up in the air. Overall, the offense is currently averaging just 23.7 points per game (105th overall).
The Wildcats were well above average on the defensive side of the ball during the regular season, allowing opponents to score only 23.5 points per game (40th overall).
Utah won three straight games to finish off the regular season before a disappointing 10-3 loss to Washington in the Pac-12 Championship game. The Utes were terrible offensively against a tough Huskies defense, getting held scoreless in the first half. QB Jason Shelley also had a rough outing, passing for just 137 yards and no touchdowns. Shelley also threw three interceptions in the game. Usual starter Tyler Huntley has missed the last four games due to a broken collarbone – although he is currently still listed as questionable, reports are currently stating it will “take a miracle” for him to play against Northwestern. Star RB Zack Moss will also miss the Holiday Bowl after a fantastic start to the season, as Moss was lost for the year due to a knee injury suffered at practice just days after rushing for 100+ yards against Arizona State at the beginning of November. As a whole, Utah is currently averaging 28.7 points per game (66th overall).
The Utes were fantastic on defense for most of the season, giving up just 18.5 points per game to opponents (16th overall).
2018 Holiday Bowl Free Betting Pick & Predictions: Northwestern +6.5
If Moss and Huntley were able to play in this matchup, I would obviously have a much different outlook on this game. However, Utah really struggled to score points against the only decent opponent they faced over the month over November, getting held to just a field goal against Washington. While Northwestern certainly isn’t as skilled as the Huskies, they still should be able to keep this one close after playing above average on the defensive side of the ball all year long.
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The Wildcats are a very solid 13-6-2 ATS over their last 21 games overall. They are also 4-1-1 ATS in their last six games against opponents with a winning record and 4-1 ATS over their last five games following a loss. Utah is only 2-6 ATS over their last eight games after scoring less than 20 points in the previous game.
It is also worth noting that although the Big 10 Championship looked like a little bit of a blowout at first glance, the Wildcats actually had a real shot at knocking off Ohio State for the first three quarters of the game. In fact, they actually had a 24-21 lead extremely late in the third quarter before collapsing down the stretch. While I’m not going to call an outright upset in this Holiday Bowl matchup, I think that Northwestern should be able to give a banged-up Utes squad all they can handle. I’m going to take the free points and roll with the underdog.