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Utah Utes Vs. Northwestern Wildcats Score Prediction, Game Day Storylines

Dec 22, 2023, 5:30 PM

LAS VEGAS – We are around 24 hours away from the Utah Utes kicking off against the Northwestern Wildcats which means it’s time for storylines and a game prediction.

Utah will be looking to put a feather in their cap after a tough, injury filled 2023 season by getting their first bowl win since 2017. Saturday’s matchup gives the Utes the perfect opportunity to do just that against a Big 10 team that has had more than their own fair share of adversity to get through this year.

With the Pac-12 era coming to a close and a new adventure in the Big 12 on the horizon, the Utes should be motivated to end their time in the “Conference of Champions” the right way while setting the tone for their new home in 2024.

 

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Before game day, make sure you are in the know about important storylines, and questions surrounding the game as well as a score prediction for Utah versus Northwestern.

Three Storylines For Utah Football Vs. Northwestern

  1. Bowl Win Drought. As mentioned in the opener, Utah has not won their bowl game since 2017 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Ironically, that was a “down” year for the Utes too, with an 8-5 finish after beating West Virginia in their bowl game. Keep in mind, that last bowl win essentially sprung Utah football into new heights. Four conference championship appearances, two titles, stops at two Pac-12 quintessential bowl games in the Holiday Bowl and Alamo Bowl before hitting the Grandaddy of them All…twice in row. Hard not to get a little ahead of yourself imagining what a bowl win could lead to next year with an expanded 12-team playoff…but alas, focus on the (hopeful) win tomorrow, and take the rest as it comes for now.
  2. It’s Not The Las Vegas Bowl, It’s The Adversity Bowl. Most of this readership is familiar with Utah’s plight in 2023. Injuries galore with a flu bug thrown in for good measure toward the end. Just cause. It was that kind of year for Utah. Northwestern’s path to a bowl hasn’t been easy either, however. The Wildcats were the salacious summer story (in between all of the conference realignment stuff, of course) when accusations of extreme hazing began surfacing. It led to longtime head coach and former Wildcat hero Pat Fitzgerald being fired just before the season started. Still, Northwestern battled through the chaos, punched above their weight, and came out with a winning record. Something Utah football knows a little about and I’m sure respects a lot.
  3. Strange Faces In Familiar Spaces. Ironically, at the end of the season, Utah appears to be in the best health they’ve had all year. Also ironic, despite that fact they are still going to be working with a different crew than what they’ve operated with due to NFL and transfer portal departures. The good news is this team is used to working with different pieces to this point due to the weekly adjustments they had to make for the injuries in 2023. The bad news is some of these guys are very green which possibly means more mistakes than fans are used to. However, the good news again is a lot of these guys come highly touted such as safeties Nate Ritchie and Jonathan Hall, offensive linemen Tanoa Togiai and Jaren Kump, and nickel backs Tao Johnson and Smith Snowden among others.

 

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Two Questions Heading Into Northwestern Vs. Utah

  • Who Handles Their Adversity Better? As mentioned, both teams have had their own, unique things to overcome in order to obtain a winning record and earn a bowl game appearance. By all accounts both teams have handled their adversities well in 2023, but who will handle it the best of all come Saturday? The guys in red who are used to rotating players in and out of their lineups like nobody’s business? Or, the guys in purple who no one gave a chance to win two games let alone seven?
  • Can Utah Correct Their Bowl Woes? The first question feeds into this second question. Can Utah get their bowl winning ways back on track? Outside of the Utes’ appearance in the Alamo Bowl, their bowl losses have been well within reach over the past years, but for some reason victory has alluded them. There is no time like the present to get that corrected. We’ll see if they can check that box off.

 

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Northwestern Vs. Utah Prediction

I get, at least from the Utah side of things, this bowl game maybe doesn’t have quite the appeal that some of the other things they’ve recently experienced have had, but I think this matchup has the potential to be good.

You have two teams that are proven fighters despite the odds stacked against them. I think they both have a little more left in them. Also, you have to look no further than the 2018 Holiday Bowl to know these two teams can take and deliver a punch with each other.

I can see this game going either way and think it will be a close, low-scoring affair. Since I have to pick a winner, I will roll with Utah in some revenge for being on the wrong side of the 2018 Holiday Bowl.

  • Utah 27, Northwestern 23

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Utes Vs. Northwestern Wildcats Score Prediction, Game Day Storylines