MetroBet rolls out a pair of New Year’s Eve bowl game predictions.
Northwestern Wildcats vs. Utah Utes (-7)
Moneyline: Wildcats +235, Utes -280
Betting Total: 46 points
Time (Eastern), TV: 7 p.m., FS1
Two ranked teams will be in action in the Holiday Bowl as the 22nd-ranked Northwestern Wildcats square off with the 17th-ranked Utah Utes at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, CA.
Utah notched just three points in the Pac-12 title game against Washington, but they were without starting quarterback Tyler Huntley. The junior has been cleared to play on Monday night but may not start. Whether it’s Huntley or Jason Shelley taking the majority of the snaps, the Utes should be able to air it out effectively against Northwestern’s 105th-rated pass stoppers. And 1,000-yard rusher Zach Moss will make the Wildcats respect the ground game as well.
Northwestern’s 105th-ranked scoring offense looks overmatched against Utah’s 16th-rated scoring defense that allowed just 10 points to the Huskies when last seen. The Utes are the best team in the country in opposing red zone scoring rate (64 percent). To make matters worse for the Wildcats, top receiver Flynn Nagel’s status for the Holiday Bowl is uncertain. He suffered a leg injury against Minnesota on Nov. 17, missed the following week’s game against Illinois, then was essentially relegated to decoy status against Ohio State (two catches, 13 yards).
Utah has a clear advantage in the kicking department, which could be decisive in a contest featuring somewhat hobbled offenses. Utes kicker Matt Gay (24-for-29) is vastly superior to the Wildcats’ Charlie Kuhbander (4-for-8).
Prediction: Utes win, 26-17
North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Texas A&M Aggies (-7)
Moneyline: Wolfpack +230, Aggies -275
Betting Total: 56 points
Time (Eastern), TV: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The final bowl game of 2018 is the Gator Bowl, which features the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Texas A&M Aggies. The venue is TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL.
The Gator Bowl features two fine offenses. NC State signal caller Ryan Finley amassed over 3,700 passing yards this year but will be without top target Kelvin Harmon, who is bypassing the event ahead of the NFL Draft. Texas A&M was 108th at stopping the pass this year but was 15th in red zone defense.
The Aggies’ attack is well balanced, as 1,500-yard rusher Trayveon Williams sets the table for competent quarterback Kellen Mond (57 percent completion rate, 7.6 yards per attempt, 23-8 TD-INT ratio). The Wolfpack excelled at stopping the run (13th) this season but were dreadful in the secondary (118th). However, much like their opponent, they make up for that to some extent with a great red zone defense (ninth in scoring percentage).
Harmon’s absence could be the key to victory for Texas A&M. Expect the SEC school to prevail on class if nothing else.
Prediction: Aggies win, 31-23
The play: Utes moneyline and Aggies moneyline Parlay (-118)