California (8-4) vs. Utah (9-3)
Dec. 23, 8 p.m., (ESPN)
Utah take by Independents and Others blogger Graham Watson: Utah and Cal will meet for the first time in the postseason, though the Utes are 2-4 all-time against the Golden Bears, winning two of the last three contests, including the final matchup in 2003.
However, Cal offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is no stranger to the Utes. He was the Utes offensive coordinator for four seasons, including last year’s undefeated Sugar Bowl team.
Utah had a better season than many expected, but has struggled at times to move the football and put points on the board. Freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn was named the starter prior to the New Mexico game and has four starts under his belt, including two against ranked teams.
He struggled at times against TCU and BYU, but Cal’s defense isn’t nearly as good as either of those. Cal allows 24.50 points per game, but 378 yards per game. While Wynn will be an integral part of Utah’s success, so will Utah running back Eddie Wide, who has played admirably after stepping in for Matt Asiata, who suffered a season-ending injury.
Utah's biggest worry will be running back Jahvid Best, who was considered a Heisman front-runner early in the year with three consecutive 100-yard performances. Best has struggled with injuries, but he’s still one of the best running backs the Utes will face this season.
California take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: A bowl win is a great way to send a what-could-have-been season off in a positive way, which is what you have with California's matchup against Utah in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
These are two teams that probably think they are pretty good, but that failed to win the big games.
Utah played three ranked teams and lost to them all -- Oregon, TCU and BYU.
California played well at times, but when it lost, it really lost, going down by 39, 27, 17 and 32 points this season.
It's unclear whether the Bears will have the services of running back Jahvid Best, who spent the early part of the season as a leading Heisman Trophy candidate. He suffered a concussion against Oregon State on Nov. 7 and hasn't played since, in large part because of a back problem brought on by the fall that knocked him out.
Utah is good on defense, particularly against the pass, and fair to middling on offense. The Utes switched from Terrance Cain to freshman Jordan Wynn at quarterback, and that seemed like a good move until Wynn struggled in the finale against BYU.
Cal's defense showed signs of life late in the season until Washington quarterback Jake Locker tore it apart on Saturday, just as it appeared that junior quarterback Kevin Riley had turned a corner before a mediocre effort in Husky Stadium.