The Utah Utes are headed to the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif. to take on the Indiana Hoosiers.
The Utes finished the season with an 8-4 record after dropping three of their final four games — their lone win in that final month of the regular season came on the road against the ASU Sun Devils. Indiana, on the other hand, barely made it to bowl season.
The Hoosiers had five wins with three games left to play in the regular season, but they failed to upset either Michigan or Penn State. However, they showed up against in-state rival Purdue and won 26-24 to become bowl eligible.
Although head coach Kyle Whittingham has not had much time to look into the Indiana football program, he is expecting some stiff competition.
“Haven’t had a chance to research them in depth, but I know they throw the ball well,” Whittingham said. “They do a good job moving the ball.”
With Utah finishing third in the Pac-12 South division and Indiana finishing fourth in the Big Ten East division, coaches and players are excited to match up with an unfamiliar opponent.
Since both squads are in Power 5 conferences they do not have the chance to compete with other notable programs in the preseason, with the exception of the Utes playing fellow Big 10 school Michigan in the 2014 and ‘15 seasons.
The Utes are currently on a three game winning streak in bowl games, with their last loss coming in the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State when they got blown out 26-3. In 2015, the Utes faced off against BYU, also in the Las Vegas Bowl, and they would use a fast start en route to a 35-28 win.
Whittingham says the Utes’ record in bowl games is due to the extra time spent practicing leading up to the games, and he expects his team to be just as focused this year.
“Our guys work hard, and they take the bowl prep very serious,” Whittingham said. “It’s very similar if not exactly similar to in season preparation, and that’s been the biggest factor in our success — the way our players approach the games and the work they put in.”
And the players are hoping to end the season on more of a high note after dropping their final two games to Oregon and Colorado.
This will be junior quarterback Troy Williams’ first appearance in a bowl game, and he is eager to get out on the field and lead his team to its ninth win of the season. Since Williams is from California he is hopeful that his family will be able to make the trip up to Santa Clara to watch him compete.
“We’re all out there having fun,” Williams said. “Hopefully we can come out with a win in the bowl game. [The end of the regular season] was kind of bittersweet. I feel like it was an okay season, it wasn’t the season everyone was hoping for, but we just have to learn from it and continue to strive.”
Utah will start up practice again on Friday in preparation for its final game of the 2016 season. The Foster Farms Bowl will be played on Dec. 28 at 6:30 p.m. MT.