Pointsettia Bowl Preview

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham knows all about wild December games in San Diego, having played in the first four Holiday Bowls with BYU.

Now he'll be bringing his Utah Utes to town to play Navy on Dec. 20 in the Poinsettia Bowl, which will kick off the bowl season with a matchup of 8-4 teams at Qualcomm Stadium.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Utah -10 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for the Poinsettia Bowl (Game Matchup).

``We're elated. We can't wait,'' Whittingham said Sunday. ``It should be a great matchup.''

The Midshipmen clinched a berth in the bowl by virtue of their sixth win back on Nov. 10, when they beat North Texas 74-62 in the highest-scoring game in major-college history.

Navy, a natural to play in a bowl game in a Navy town, played in the inaugural Poinsettia Bowl in 2005, beating Colorado State 51-30 as the teams combined for what was then a bowl-record 1,183 yards.

``San Diego's a great Navy city,'' Midshipmen coach Paul Johnson said. ``We couldn't ask for a better destination. Everybody's excited.''

The Midshipmen routed Army 38-3 on Saturday, their unprecedented sixth straight win in the big rivalry. Earlier this season, Navy beat Notre Dame for the first time in 44 years, 46-44 win in three overtimes.

``To have two teams with 8-4 records, both of which are having exciting seasons, we couldn't be happier,'' said Bruce Binkowski, executive director of both the Poinsettia and Holiday bowls.

``The interesting thing here is Utah has a very strong defense and Navy has an amazing offense, so I think we're really going to see a great matchup,'' Binkowski said.

Binkowski hopes the Poinsettia Bowl can mirror the Holiday Bowl's history of crazy finishes.

While Navy has played some wild games this year, Johnson isn't so sure.

``You can never tell,'' he said. ``We played our best defensive game of the year Saturday. Our last two efforts on defense were our best two, and our last two offensively might not have been.''

The Utes, of the Mountain West Conference, will be making their fifth straight bowl appearance. They have won their last six bowl games dating to 1999, the second-longest postseason winning streak in the country.

While this will be Utah's first bowl game in San Diego, Whittingham needs no introduction. He returned a kickoff 16 yards and had one carry for three yards in BYU's 23-16 loss to Navy in the first Holiday Bowl in 1978, then played as a linebacker in the next three games.

He had 16 tackles in 1980, when Jim McMahon rallied the Cougars to a memorable 46-45 win over SMU.

``I was tackling Eric Dickerson, but 10 of the 16 were probably 20 yards downfield,'' Whittingham said.

Whittingham said Navy's option offense is similar to the one run by Air Force, one of Utah's conference rivals.

``The best way to defend an option offense is to keep it on the sideline,'' Whittingham said.

The Utes won seven straight games before losing its regular-season finale to MWC champion BYU.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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