Tie Ins: SEC Champ vs. At-Large
Dan: Utah +10.5
I really have to feel sorry for Alabama. They had one hell of a season, and if they had played Florida in early October, maybe things would be different. But they didn’t, and Florida is so dominant right now that Alabama will have to settle for Utah in New Orleans. Not much of a consolation prize. I think that the situation, combined with some internal turmoil, could result in this game being much closer than it should be. But Saban will have just enough left in the bag to pull off the win.
Alabama 31 Utah 28
Matt: Utah +10.5
Utah is legit. They beat TCU and destroyed BYU. And I think that Kyle Whittingham is a high quality coach and will have Utah ready to play. I just don’t think they will be able to match up with Alabama in the trenches to be able to keep this close, even with Andre Smith’s premature declaration for the NFL Draft. The only thing that might give them a chance is Alabama playing poorly with a hangover from the SEC Championship game. But with Saban on the sidelines, I don’t really see that happening.
If there was one place I could be this bowl season, it would be on Bourbon Street sucking down Hand Grenades and mixing it up with Bama Nation. The Super Dome may be the most depressing building in America, and obviously the city of New Orleans is disappearing, but there really is no place like Bourbon Street.
Alabama 30 Utah 20
Mike: Alabama –10.5
See, e.g., Georgia versus Hawaii in the 2007 Sugar Bowl. Way too much force up front for the Tide.
Alabama 31 Utah 17
Doug: Alabama -10.5
I know everyone is expecting a repeat of last year's Georgia-Hawaii game, but I'm actually a little leery of my pick here. Utah is a much better team and program than Hawaii (who is the equivalent of a MAC school at the end of the day). Utah football is actually pretty strong. They are one of the premier programs in the "Mountain" region, and they can recruit a lot of the better players in the Utah/Colorado/Nevada/Wyoming/Montana/Idaho/Northern Arizona regions. Plus, with their Mormon tie-in, Utah is going to get some quality out of state Mormon kids who want to play football. Utah doesn't have Alabama talent or anything, but they are one of the better "mid-majors" out there. Kyle Whittingham has proven to be a good coach for that program as well. Utah is actually the fastest growing state in the country according to the latest US Census, so I could see them staying around as a good program. Plus, with the cold weather in Utah, it makes sense that the state would be emerging as a football-friendly state.
With all that said, Alabama is the second best team in the country if you ask me. They have dominant line play (although their best lineman has been suspended for this game), and their defense is physical and tough. I think Utah will come ready to play, but Alabama will wear them down in the second half. I am a little worried that Bama will not be as focused for this game, but I have faith in Nick Saban to have his guys ready to play.
Should be an interesting scene down on Bourbon Street with the Bama fans and the Utah fans. I'd love to see how those two fanbases interact. If anyone catches any good footage of some Mormons pounding Hurricanes and Hand Grenades on Bourbon Street, please email them immediately to weisnd.blogspot.com.
Alabama 30 Utah 13