No. 23 Utah (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) vs. Colorado State (10-2, 6-2 Mountain West), 3:30 p.m. EST (ABC)
Line: Utah by 3
Series record: Utah leads 55-22-2
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Utah and Colorado State used to be Mountain West opponents, but the Utes moved to the Pac-12 in 2011 and are playing in their first bowl game after a two-year absence. The Rams are gunning for their first 11-win season since 1997 and would love nothing more than to defeat a team from one of the power conferences.
Utah’s pass-rushing defensive front versus Colorado State’s passing offense. The Utes led the country with 52 sacks, and defensive ends Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick will have to find a way to contain Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson, who threw for more than 3,700 yards and 32 touchdowns. Together, Orchard and Dimick had 27.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Utah: Orchard led the country with an average of 1.46 sacks per game. He’ll be matched against Rams left tackle Ty Sambrailo, whom coach Dave Baldwin predicts will be a first- or second-round pick in the NFL draft. Orchard is fast and physical, and his ability to pressure Grayson will bear watching.
Colorado State: WR Rashard Higgins had seven consecutive games of 100 yards receiving, making him a potent offensive threat. His ability to get open quickly could play a major role in nullifying Utah’s physical pass rush.
FACTS & FIGURES
Utah sold out its allotment of 7,500 seats in just a few days. . Colorado State is 16-4 over its past 20 games, but it’s worth noting that the Rams didn’t play a ranked opponent this season and have lost their past 15 games against Top 25 teams. . Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, a junior, has 40 career TD passes and finished this season with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. He didn’t throw a pick in his first eight games. . Colorado State is making consecutive bowl appearances for the first time since 2002-03.