Utah Utes vs Texas Longhorns
When: 7:30 PM ET, Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
VALERO ALAMO BOWL STORYLINES:
- Utah and Texas, two programs which had designs on more prestigious finishes to the season, will instead wrap things up Tuesday, Dec. 31, with a meeting in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. The Utes took a No. 6 College Football Playoff ranking and final-four hopes into the Dec. 6 Pac-12 Championship Game but were routed by Oregon 37-15. Texas, meanwhile, opened the season ranked 10th nationally, but dropped an early showdown, 45-38, to visiting LSU and wound up suffering four more losses – including setbacks to Big 12 Championship Game combatants Oklahoma and Baylor – along the way.
- Utah running back Zack Moss, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and the program’s newly crowned career rushing leader, is planning to play in the game. “I just (want) to play with my guys,” Moss told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I definitely want to go ahead and finish it off. I’m healthy enough to go ahead and play, and that’s exactly what I want to do.” The Utes, though, will be without All-Pac 12 first team defensive backs, safety Julian Blackmon (out with a knee injury) and cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who will skip the contest to begin preparing for the NFL Draft as an early entrant.
- Texas, meanwhile, is looking for its third bowl win in as many seasons under head coach Tom Herman, but has undergone a coaching-staff shakeup since the conclusion of its regular season on Nov. 29. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando was fired Dec. 1 and was replaced Dec. 17 by recently fired Rutgers head coach and ex-Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, but Ash will not help coach in the bowl game. Meanwhile, there are still three offensive assistant positions to be filled with the reassignments of offensive coordinator Tim Beck and inside-receivers coach Corby Meekins and the firing of passing-game coordinator/receivers coach Drew Mehringer.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Utah -7.5
ABOUT UTAH (11-2): Senior dual-threat quarterback Tyler Huntley, the Pac-12’s passing-efficiency leader (181.85 rating), and Moss, the conference’s leading rusher (113.3 yards per game), present a formidable 1-2 punch for the Utes, who average 34 points and 442.5 total yards per contest. Tight end Brant Kuithe, a second-team all-conference selection, is Huntley’s top target with 31 receptions for 572 yards and six touchdowns, while All-America end Bradlee Anae (12.5 sacks) headlines a defense which ranks first nationally against the run (70.3 yards allowed) but will be looking to bounce back after being gashed for season-highs in points (37), total yards (432) and rushing yards (239) by Oregon. Head coach Kyle Whittingham, the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, will be making his 14th bowl appearance in 16 seasons with the Utes and his .846 bowl win percentage (11-2, which includes a 2004 Fiesta Bowl victory as a co-head coach alongside Urban Meyer) ranks second in NCAA history.
ABOUT TEXAS (7-5): Junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger ranks second in the Big 12 in both passing yards (288.5) and total offense (337.7 yards) and has accounted for 35 total TDs this season on an offense which averages 35 points and 468.2 yards per outing. Sophomore running back Keaontay Ingram is the Longhorns’ leading rusher (745 yards, six TDs) while All-Big 12 first-team wide receiver and FBS receptions leader Devin Duvernay (103-1,294-8) is Ehlinger’s top target. Second-team All-Big 12 safety Brandon Jones (team-most 86 tackles, two interceptions) leads a defense which ranks among the conference’s bottom three in scoring (28.9 points allowed), total defense (446.3 yards) and passing defense (306.4 yards).