No. 11 Utah vs. Texas: Alamo Bowl preview and picks against the spread

No. 11 Utah (11-2) vs. Texas (7-5)

Location: San Antonio | When: Dec. 31 (7:30 p.m. ET) | TV: ESPN | Line: Utah -7.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

Utah: Do we need to relive why Utah is in San Antonio and playing on New Year’s Eve instead of playing LSU in Atlanta on Saturday?

The Utes were in position to make the College Football Playoff for the first time with a win over Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. Instead, the Ducks clobbered the Utes and relegated Utah to the Alamo Bowl against a team that’s three losses worse. If Utah is motivated for this game the Utes shouldn’t have any trouble with an underachieving Texas team with a coaching staff in flux.

Utah QB Tyler Huntley (L) and RB Zack Moss are one of the best QB-RB combinations in the country. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Texas: The answer to the cliche “is Texas back?” question was a resounding “nah” in 2019. The Longhorns looked like a good team against LSU in Week 2 and hung around against Oklahoma in Week 7 in a 34-27 loss. 

But things went really poorly after that. Texas needed a last-second field goal to beat Kansas a week after the OU game. Then the Longhorns lost by 10 to a TCU team that ended up missing a bowl game. After beating Kansas State, Texas then lost consecutive games to Iowa State and Baylor before beating Texas Tech to avoid a 6-6 season. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

It’s New Year’s Eve and parties and socializing are overrated. Watching football is the better choice. You can have a celebratory drink, watch a college football game, get to bed before midnight and be well-rested for the games on Jan. 1 and what will hopefully be a great 2020.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Utah QB Tyler Huntley: His stats aren’t going to blow you off the page like many other QBs in 2019. But Huntley was one of the most efficient QBs in the country this season.

Huntley is 205-of-278 passing for 2,966 yards with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2019. If you don’t want to do the math, that’s over 10 yards an attempt. As defenses worry about Utah’s stellar rushing attack, Huntley can hurt teams deep, especially to tight end Brant Kuithe. The sophomore leads the team with 523 yards and six touchdowns on just 27 catches. 

Texas receiver Devin Duvernay is the Longhorns' top receiving threat. And it's not even close. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Texas WR Devin Duvernay: This is the guy you need to keep an eye on when Texas is facing a third down. Duvernay has caught 103 passes for 1,294 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Over half of those receptions have gone for first downs.

He operates out of the slot and can wriggle his way open in the middle of the field. He’s also far and away Texas’ most important receiver. No other Longhorn player has more than 35 catches in 2019. With No. 2 receiver Collin Johnson expected to be healthy for Tuesday’s game, Duvernay could have plenty of space to work with behind Utah’s linebackers.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Utah RB Zack Moss: We’re big fans of Moss, who capped off his third 1,000-yard rushing season for the Utes, despite having suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2018. Separating himself in a loaded RB class is going to be a chore. But Moss — the cousin of former NFL receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss — has excellent burst, terrific vision and a vicious jump cut to get to where he needs to go. Despite Moss’ injury history, he’s playing in this game. We think he ultimately lands in the second or third round.

— Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Utah: The Utes have already won 11 games for the first time since that famous 13-0 season in 2008. A 12-win season just adds to how great Utah has been — albeit with a bittersweet taste of missing the playoff.

Utah’s Holiday Bowl loss last season was the first time the school had lost a bowl game since the Maaco Bowl in 2010. Coach Kyle Whittingham is a remarkable 11-2 in bowl games since taking over for Urban Meyer at the 2004 Fiesta Bowl.

Texas: A win for Texas runs Tom Herman’s bowl record with the Longhorns to 3-0 and avoids a second 7-6 season in three years. It also gives Texas just its second eight-win season since Mack Brown went 8-5 in 2013, his final season with the Longhorns. 

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: Utah -7.5

Sam Cooper: Utah -7.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: Utah -7

Pete Thamel: Utah -7

Dan Wetzel: Utah -7

Sean Sullivan: Utah -7

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.