Roundup of Navy-Utah predictions

Selected Poinsettia Bowl picks from college football pundits

Baltimoresun.com staff

9:24 AM EST, December 20, 2007

Without Georgia Tech-bound Paul Johnson, Navy will bring its top-ranked rushing attack to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego tonight for a Poinsettia Bowl date with the Utah Utes.

Former Mids assistant head coach Ken Niumatalolo has been elevated to the head position following Johnson's decision to take over the Yellow Jackets.

The majority of national college football pundits are predicting a tough game for Niumatalolo's squad, which faces a Utah program that has won six straight bowl games.

Here's a roundup of the Poinsettia Bowl picks by selected college football writers and media outlets:

ESPN.com's Pat Forde predicts a 38-28 victory for Utah, noting that Navy's strength (offense) will go against Utah's strength (defense).

Utes allowed only 9.5 points per game the last half of the season. Middies led the nation in rushing offense and averaged 40 points per game, but were just 1-3 against bowl teams this season. And their coach is leaving for Georgia Tech.

SI.com's Stewart Mandel likes Utah as well, picking a 34-24 Utes victory.

It's been a historic season for Navy, which exorcised its 43-year demon against Notre Dame and recently introduced the first Polynesian head coach in Division I-A history, Ken Niumatalolo. A win here would be the ultimate capper, but the much-improved Utes have won seven of their last eight.

MSNBC.com likes Utah in a 28-27 squeaker, but notes that the Mids have a chance if they can diversify their offense and successfully throw the ball.

The Midshipmen are running the most productive offense in school history, having scored 479 points this season to break the previous mark of 442, which stood since 1917. But Navy accomplishes that while ranking last in the country in passing, averaging just 93.1 yards per game through the air.

After throwing only five passes in the 38-3 victory over Army in the regular-season finale, Midshipmen quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will have to come up with some crucial third-down conversions against Utah's sturdy defense.

Rivals.com's four college football writers all pick Utah. Mike Huguenin foresees a 30-24 Utah win but says Navy could win if ...

The Middies need to control the ball on the ground and avoid mistakes. Kaheaku-Enhada has to be sharp on his option reads and take advantage of a defense that plays aggressively.

The Sports Network predicts a 35-28 Utah win, but notes that the outcome is far from a given.

When the Utes were charged with trying to stop a dominant running game like they were when they faced Air Force, the squad didn't stand up that well. However, that was months ago and the team has since leveled out. However, with some uncertainty at the quarterback position, Utah is not a lock for a victory by any stretch in this game.

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