Time, Place and [Radio Waves in] Space • The Utes and West Virginia clash in the eighth Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas at Cotton Bowl Stadium 11:30 a.m. (MT) Tuesday. You can watch on ESPN or listen on ESPN 700 AM, Sirius 137/XM 202/Internet 962.
Line • Utah is a 6.5-point favorite as of Monday.
Opposing coach • Dana Holgorsen is in his seventh season as Mountaineers coach, and he’s at the helm for the sixth bowl appearance. He came into this season ranked fourth on the program’s all-time wins list. His previous coaching stints include Oklahoma State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2010), Houston offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2008-09), co-offensive coordinator Texas Tech (2005-07), Texas Tech inside receivers coach (2000-04), Wingate quarterbacks/wide receivers coach (1999), Mississippi College quarterbacks/wide receivers/special teams coach (1996-98), Voldosta State quarterbacks/wide receivers/special teams coach (1993-95).
Utah ties • West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen and Utes football director of strength and conditioning Doug Elisaia were college roommates at Iowa Wesleyan in the early 1990s. Elisaia played defensive tackle from 1991-95, while Holgorsen played wide receiver and graduated in 1993. Current Washington State coach Mike Leach served as the school’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach from 1989-91.
Game day threads • The Utes will wear white jerseys with red numbers outlined black, red and black striped sleeves as well as red and black stripes going down the side of white pants. They’ll wear red helmets with a silver and red Circle and Feathers logo on the side.
Pregame quotable • West Virginia linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton on Utah’s offense, “They’re a lot different than a lot of the offenses we’ve seen. They’re a lot different than a lot of the offenses in the country. … One, personnel and, two, their mentality [make them different]. The way they play, when you turn on the film you see they try to maul you.”
Telling stat • Utes coach Kyle Whittingham has gone 10-1 in bowl games as Utah’s coach. He is tied for second among active coaches and trailing only Alabama’s Nick Saban. Whittingham’s holds the best bowl winning percentage (91 percent) in NCAA history.
Mountaineers offensive outlook • West Virginia’s offense gained 5,821 yards this season, the fifth-most in program history. All-America wide receiver and Biletnikoff Award finalist David Sills is the team’s second-leading receiver with 60 catches for 980 yards and 18 touchdowns. Gary Jennings has 94 catches for 1,030 yards with just one touchdown. Ka’raun White has 978 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. Running back Justin Crawford will sit out the bowl game in preparation for the NFL Draft. Backup Kennedy McKoy rushed for 580 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry this season. He ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns against Oklahoma, and he did a lot of damage from the “wildcat” formation as he took direct snaps from the center. The offensive line is anchored by All-Big 12 left tackle Yodny Cajuste (6-foot-5, 308 pounds).
Mountaineers defensive outlook • West Virginia came into this season having lost eight starters on defense from the previous season. During this season, they used 10 different defensive linemen and 10 players at safety. West Virginia’s defense gave up 204.8 rushing yards per game this season. Sophomore linebacker David Long Jr. earned Pro Football Focus Second Team All-America honors despite having missed four games due to an offseason leg injury. He comes into the bowl game with 69 tackles (50 solo). Defensive back Kyzir White, an All-Big 12 honoree, ranked second in tackles (81, 59 solo) and intercepted three passes, forced two fumbles and broke up four passes.
Mountaineers special teams outlook • Kick returner/punt returner Marcus Simms earned All-Big 12 honors. He averaged 25.6 yards per kickoff return with a long of 80 yards. Punter Billy Kinney has averaged 39.98 yards per punt, and he has had 5 punts of 50 yards or more. Kicker Evan Staley had gone 4-of-5 on field goals attempts, and he hasn’t had a try of more than 39 yards. Kicker Mike Molina has gone 5-of-8 on field goals with a long of 43 yards.
Injury report • West Virginia: Quarterback Will Grier had surgery on his hand and will miss the game. Offensive lineman Jacob Buccigrossi is questionable (knee), Mike Molina is questionable (hip). Running back Justin Crawford will sit out (personal reasons). Utah: Tyler Huntley is probable after missing the Colorado game with an undisclosed injury. Wide receiver Darren Carrington II is also probable despite a recent foot injury. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson (unspecified injury) will not play. Defensive end Kylie Fitts is probable after missing the final game of the regular season.
Three Big Questions
1. How will WVU quarterback Chris Chugunov perform with extra time to prepare?
Chugunov steps in for injured starter Will Grier. He has gone 34-of-62 for 407 yards without an interception and with a pair of touchdown passes this season. His only start came in a 59-31 loss to Oklahoma after taking over in the middle of the previous game against Texas. Chugunov went 10-of-20 for 137 yards against Oklahoma. WVU has now operated with Chugunov as the starter for an entire game week plus throughout bowl preparation.
2. Can the Utes build on the success they had in their regular-season finale against Colorado?
Running back Zack Moss rushed for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns the last game the Utes played. With senior quarterback Troy Williams taking over for the injured Tyler Huntley, the Utes rushed for 310 yards and four touchdowns and compiled 491 yards of offense. Huntley will start the bowl game, and the Utes would like to have Moss and Huntley performing at their best in the same game. Two of Moss’ three biggest rushing games (USC, Colorado) have come with Williams at quarterback.
3. How does the Utes defense handle a highly-productive offense with multiple receiving threats?
The Utes secondary has endured several injuries throughout the season. Safety Chase Hansen has missed four games, safety Marquise Blair suffered a season-ending injury nine games into the season, and cornerback Jaylon Johnson will not play in the bowl game due to an injury that forced him to miss the regular-season finale. Cornerback Casey Hughes came out of the finale due to injury. West Virginia’s wide receiver unit includes a 1,000-yard receiver and two others with more than 900 yards coming into the game. WVU’s offense has had eight touchdowns of 55 yards or more this season, and all have come on pass plays.