The Big XII was incredibly strong this year, and the West Virginia Mountaineers were lost in the sauce just a bit. They finished the season with five losses and were relegated to the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Utah Utes struggled at times in the Pac-12, dropping from a team that was once ranked in the Top 25 after starting 4-0 to needing to beat Colorado in the last week of the season to qualify for a bowl game.
West Virginia Bowl History
West Virginia has only missed a bowl game once since 2001. The Mountaineers have only won one postseason game since the 2011 Orange Bowl, though, when they claimed the 2015 Cactus Bowl.
Dana Holgorsen has only guided the Mountaineers to two bowl wins in his coaching tenure in five tries. Last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl resulted in a blowout 31-14 loss to Miami.
Utah Bowl History
Utah has one of the best bowl records in the country over the course of the last two decades. The Utes are 13-1 in their last 14 bowl appearances since 1999.
Kyle Whittingham has guided the Utes to bowl wins in each of the last three seasons, twice at the Las Vegas Bowl and once at the Foster Farms Bowl.
Why West Virginia Will Win the Heart of Dallas Bowl
The West Virginia offense isn’t going to have Justin Crawford in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and it might not have Will Grier either. Crawford is preparing for the NFL Draft while Grier is dealing with a broken finger.
Even though the Mountaineers ranked No. 111 in the nation in total defense, they’ve had a number of solid games this season. Horrid contests against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State really skewed the numbers against the WVU defense, but Utah surely isn’t going to drop 50 points on the board against anyone.
If Grier plays, he threw for at least 285 yards and two touchdowns in every game that he both started and finished.
Why Utah Will Win the Heart of Dallas Bowl
Utah is a relatively large favorite in this one due to the fact that Grier probably isn’t going to play. But let’s not forget that this Utah team is incredibly talented, too.
Tyler Huntley was all over the place this year, but when he was good, he was really, really good. He had two games this season with four touchdowns, and he’s shown the ability to consistently move the ball against good defenses.
Darren Carrington was fantastic at the start of the season, but he only caught eight passes for 88 yards in his last two games of the year. He’s been dinged up with various small injuries, and the time off before the Heart of Dallas Bowl should be good for him and once again make him a huge force.
Heart of Dallas Bowl Prediction
There are several teams across the country that wouldn’t have a huge drop between their starting quarterback and their backup. West Virginia isn’t one of those squads.
Chris Chugunov will probably improve with a few weeks of practice, but if his games against Texas and Oklahoma were any indication, he’s significantly worse than Grier. The Mountaineers are going to have to run the heck out of the football to win the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and with Crawford skipping the game to prepare for the NFL Draft, it’s going to be hard to see them do that successfully.
Heart of Dallas Bowl Pick: Utah 31, West Virginia 14
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