Bowl Game Preview: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Print
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Saturday, 23 December 2006 11:15
NCAAF Headline News

Utah The Public and Point Spread Favorite in The Armed Forces Bowl

Team Page: Utah :: Tulsa

58% of Bets Placed on Utah -2 | Matchup | CFB Picks
Utah isn't playing in nearly as prestigious a season-ending game as it did two seasons ago, but the Utes can extend their bowl winning streak to six when they take on Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 23.

Utah (7-5) will be appearing in a bowl game for a program-record fourth straight season as it faces Tulsa (8-4) in the former Fort Worth Bowl.

Oddsmakers have made Utah -2 point spread favorites (College Football Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 49.5 total points (View CFB Sports Books).

Coach Kyle Whittingham has the Utes making their second straight bowl appearance since taking over for Urban Meyer. Meyer, now Florida's coach, departed after helping Utah become the first team from a non-BCS conference to play in a BCS game in 2005, when the Utes defeated Pittsburgh 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl.

While Meyer prepares his Gators to play in the national title game Jan. 8, Whittingham, who guided the Utes to a 38-10 Emerald Bowl victory over Georgia Tech last year, is emphasizing the school's recent success in reaching - and winning - in the postseason.

``The bowl history that we have here has really just recently taken off, so I think that is certainly something to be proud of,'' Whittingham said.

``It's one thing to get to a bowl game, but once you get there, you certainly would like to win and our guys have done a good job of doing that.''

Expectations aren't nearly as high at Tulsa, which will play in a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time since making two straight Bluebonnet Bowl appearances in 1964 and 1965. The Golden Hurricane are playing in the postseason for the third time in four seasons after winning one game in both 2001 and '02.

``It's always exciting to play in the month of December because it's an indicator that you've had a good season,'' Kragthorpe said.

Whittingham and Kragthorpe were childhood friends while their fathers, Fred Whittingham and Dave Kragthorpe, were BYU assistants together under coach Lavell Edwards from 1973-79.

Both coaches' teams will be looking to regroup from disappointing finishes to the regular season.

The Utes' three-game win streak ended when they allowed an 11-yard scoring pass with no time remaining in a 33-31 home loss to BYU on Nov. 25. Utah entered the fourth quarter with a 24-14 lead.

``Our guys are excited and are ready to get going,'' Whittingham said. ``Maybe that's the best therapy for us - is to get right back on the field and get practicing again.''

To finish the year with a victory, the Utes will need quarterback Brett Ratliff to maintain the efficient touch he displayed during the defeat. He threw for three touchdowns and a season-high 358 yards, completing 24 of 39 passes.

``It's hard to play so well and come up short,'' Ratliff said. ``This is a tough loss for the whole team, but we have another game to play.''

Ratliff will face a defense that allowed 152.5 passing yards per game, the fewest in Conference USA.

The senior quarterback, though, was at his best in last year's Emerald Bowl, going 30-of-41 and throwing for 381 yards and four touchdowns - both career highs. Ratliff was making only his second career start after taking over when Brian Johnson suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the season.

Utah may need Ratliff at his best again because it lacks a dominant running back. Darryl Poston, whose 546 rushing yards led Utah, ran for just 15 yards on six carries against BYU.

Ratliff could have another big performance if he continues to look for Brent Castell, who had five catches for a season-high 100 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season finale. One of those scoring passes came from defensive back Eric Weddle, who connected with Castell on an 18-yard completion.

Tulsa secured a bowl berth with a 38-3 home win over Tulane on Nov. 24, but had lost three in a row before that. Paul Smith completed 14 of 20 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown, and the Tulsa defense allowed 152 yards, the third time this season it has given up fewer than 200.

Smith looks to continue that steady play as he gets set to face a defense that allowed a season-high 375 yards in the loss to BYU. The Utes gave up 327.8 yards per game this season, including an average of 220.5 through the air.

Smith lifted Tulsa over Fresno State 31-24 in last year's Liberty Bowl, scoring the tiebreaking touchdown on a 4-yard run with 2:55 left. He also completed 18 of 27 passes for 234 yards and a score.

Golden Hurricane running back Courtney Tennial extended his streak of games with a touchdown to eight in the win over Tulane. Tennial ran for 49 yards and two scores on 11 carries, increasing his season TD total to 14.

Utah, though, allowed only 54 rushing yards on 24 attempts against the Cougars. The Utes gave up only 35.0 rushing yards per contest this season.

Utah leads the series with Tulsa 2-1 but lost the most recent meeting 21-13 in 1997, when both teams competed in the WAC.

by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us

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