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Northwestern vs. Utah: Picks, best bets for Las Vegas Bowl

The Wildcats and Utes meet in Las Vegas.

Colorado v Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The Northwestern Wildcats face the Utah Utes in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday, December 23. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Northwestern (7-5, 5-4 B1G) began their 2023 season under the shadow of a scandal that saw head coach Pat Fitzgerald fired, but the program was able to rally and significantly improve from their one-win 2022 season. The Wildcats defeated Wisconsin, Purdue, and Illinois on a three-game streak to end their season. Quarterback Ben Bryant dealt with an injury for part of the season, but finished with over 1,500 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Utah (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) started the season 4-0 before falling to Oregon State. The Utes grabbed wins over USC, UCLA, and Colorado this season, and nearly took down eventual Pac-12 Washington, losing by just one touchdown in a close game. Cam Rising was initially slated to come back at quarterback for the Utes, but ACL issues kept him out for the season. Bryson Barnes and freshman Nate Johnson split time under center, and both are now entering the transfer portal. Leading wide receiver Devaughn Vele will not be participating in the bowl game as he prepares for the draft.

Here’s everything you need to know and a pick for the bowl.

SP+ Rankings

Northwestern: 71 overall, 104 offense, 30 defense
Utah: 97 overall, 49 offense, 129 defense

List of injuries and players opting out of game


DL Duke Olges - Questionable (undisclosed)


CB JaTravis Broughton - Out (transfer portal)
QB Nate Johnson - Out (transfer portal)
WR Mikey Matthews - Out (transfer portal)
WR Devaughn Vele - Out (draft)
LB Justin Medlock - Out (transfer portal)
QB Bryson Barnes - Out (transfer portal)


Against The Spread in 2023

Northwestern: 8-4 ATS
Utah: 6-5-1 ATS

Total in 2023

Northwestern: Over 6-6
Utah: Over 5-7

Team Pace

Northwestern: 25.1 seconds per play
Utah: 28.7 seconds per play

Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Utah -6.5
Total: 42
Moneyline: Utah -245, Northwestern +200


Weather not a factor inside of Allegiant Stadium

Our Best Bet for the Las Vegas Bowl

Northwestern +6.5

Utah is losing a lot of their starters to the transfer portal and the draft, including both quarterbacks that started this year. Northwestern still has a lot to prove in this rebuilding year, and are keeping much of their roster intact for this matchup. The Wildcats struggle on offense but have a strong defense, and should be able to limit a somewhat green Utah offense.