Las Vegas Bowl NCAA Football Picks: Utah -3 vs. Colorado State

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 11:51 AM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 11:51 AM UTC

College Football returns on Saturday with five bowl games a Mountain West Conference rivalry: Utah vs. Colorado State. The Utes are 3-point favorites on NCAA football odds with a total of 58.

CSU Coaching Staff in Transition
Of course the University of Florida lured away Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain, so the Rams will be led by offensive coordinator and interim coach Dave Baldwin in this one, and obviously he's hoping to parlay this into the full-time gig. Colorado State (10-2, 6-2) was a runner-up to Boise State in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West. The Rams lost their regular-season finale at Air Force 27-24, but it wouldn't have mattered regardless because Boise State won its finale against Utah State to clinch the division. Had CSU won and Boise not, the Rams would have played in the conference championship game.  Boise State was the only other team to beat CSU.

The Rams are a very good offensive team, ranking No. 8 in passing behind senior QB Garrett Grayson and No. 22 in points scored at 35.9 per game. Grayson is 250-for-386 for 3,779 yards, 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He ranked second nationally in QB rating behind Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. Grayson's favorite target is Biletnikoff Award finalist Rashard Higgins. The sophomore from Texas led the nation in receiving yards per game (149.1) and touchdown catches (17) during the regular season and was second in receiving yards (1,640) behind Heisman finalist Amari Cooper (1,656), who won the Biletnikoff. Higgins set school records for catches (89), receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Higgins is the first Colorado State player to earn first-team All-American honors since 1998.

You may also know the name of Rams running back Dee Hart. He was a former top national recruit at Alabama before transferring. Hart rushed for 1,254 yards and 16 touchdowns on 187 carries this season.

Colorado State has won two straight bowl games, last the New Mexico Bowl over Washington State last season. The Rams are 8-4 against the spread on NCAA football odds this season and 6-6 'over/under.'


Is Michigan Calling?
Could this be the final game at Utah for Coach Kyle Whittingham? You hear some rumors that Michigan has interest in him if UM can't get 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Whittingham's team won 26-10 at Michigan back on Sept. 20. The Utes (8-4, 5-4, Pac-12) faded a bit down the stretch in losing three of their final five games, albeit against ranked teams Arizona State, Oregon and Arizona. Utah, which also beat ranked teams USC and UCLA, closed the regular season with a 38-34 win at Colorado.

Junior QB Travis Wilson has had a solid season, completing 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,012 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. Junior running back Devontae Booker usually carries the load. He rushed 266 times for 1,350 yards and nine scores this season while catching 39 passes for 282 yards and two scores.

Before placing your College Football picks, keep in mind that defensively, Utah leads the nation in total sacks (52) and sacks per game (4.33). Senior defensive end and All-American Nate Orchard leads the nation in sacks per game (1.46) and is second in total sacks (17.5). He won the Ted Hendricks  Award as the nation's top defensive end. Utah also  has a great punter in Tom Hackett, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. He leads the nation in punts inside the 10 (19) and punts inside the 20 (35).

Utah has won 10 of its past 11 bowl games and is 7-1 in bowls under Whittingham. The Utes and Rams do have a common opponent: Colorado. CSU beat the Buffaloes 31-17 in the season opener in Denver.

The Utes are 8-4 against the College Football odds this season and 4-7-1 'over/under.' They lead the all-time series with Colorado State 55-22-2. The two teams, who last played in 2010, have never met at a neutral site.

Free College Football Picks: Utah -3 and 'over' at BetOnline Sportsbook. The Utes are 7-2 ATS in their past nine bowl games. The 'over' is 4-1 in their past five bowls. The 'over' is 4-1 in CSU's past five games overall.

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