The Fearless Predictions for bowl season continue. Today we focus on Utah-California and Nevada-SMU.
Utah vs. California (-3.5): There are things to not like about each team. California’s four losses were all blowouts (42-3 to Oregon, 30-3 to USC, 31-14 to Oregon State and 42-10 to Washington to end the regular season). For Utah, the quarterback situation, which has been a problem all season, seems to be settled heading into the bowl game. Freshman Jordan Wynn will get the start, but he hasn’t been great in his four starts. Cal won’t have starting tailback Jahvid Best, who is still recovering from a concussion. But Shane Vereen has been a nice surprise filling in for Best with 830 yards and 10 touchdowns. The key matchup figures to be Cal quarterback Kevin Riley, who has had a solid season with 2,636 yards and 17 touchdowns, against a Utah secondary that is 14th nationally, allowing just 173 yards a game. The Utes have also picked off 15 passes this season. Riley threw four of his interceptions over Cal’s final four games of the regular season. Again, I don’t like Utah’s quarterback situation, but the Utes are more battle-tested for this game. Utah lost by just a touchdown to Oregon and three points to BYU (Utah was blown out by TCU). Utah 27, California 24
SMU vs. Nevada (-15): Nice story here as June Jones returns to Hawaii, leading the Mustangs to their first bowl game since 1984. Jones coached at Hawaii before leaving for SMU two years ago. The SMU defense will have all sorts of problems trying to stop Nevada’s rushing offense, which features three 1,000-yard rushers (Vai Taua with 1,345 yards, Colin Kaepernick with 1,160 yards and Luke Lippincott with 1,034 yards). SMU is 88th nationally in rush defense, giving up 169 yards per game. Plus, Kaepernick has thrown for nearly 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Nevada averages 40.6 points per game, fifth nationally. SMU is 61st nationally in total offense. It’s going to be impossible for SMU to keep up with Nevada. Nevada 44, SMU 20