NCAA Football: Utah at Washington

The Las Vegas Bowl has come a long way since its humble beginnings. The first game took place in 1992 as a replacement for the California Raisin Bowl. That inaugural contest was a 35-34 win for Bowling Green over Nevada. Tie-ins with the WAC and Mountain West have come and gone, and now the game is played between the Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten.

This year's matchup pits a Utah team that has won the Pac-12 twice in the last three seasons with a Northwestern squad making its first bowl appearance since 2020. The Utes finished the regular season 8-4 and had to deal with the absence of starting QB Cameron Rising all season. Northwestern comes in at 7-5 but was one of the season's biggest surprises. Interim coach David Braun did well enough to have the interim tag stripped from his title.

How to watch Las Vegas Bowl live

Date: Saturday, Dec. 23 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Allegiant Stadium -- Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: ABC | Live stream: Fubo (Try for free)
For a limited time, new subscribers can save $20 on Fubo's Pro, Elite and Premier plans.

Utah vs. Northwestern: Need to know

Utah is missing a lot of players: It's commonplace to see teams without a lot of regulars in bowl games these days, and Utah is no different. The Utes will be without starting safety and caption Cole Bishop, as well as two-way star Sione Vaki, leading receiver DeVaughn Vele and offensive lineman Keaton Bills. All are preparing for the NFL Draft. The Utes will also be without sack leader Jonah Elliss, defensive lineman Logan Fano and linebacker Lander Barton, who are injured. Then there are all the players who have entered the transfer portal. However, one of those players in the portal is starting QB Bryson Barnes, but Barnes plans to play in the Las Vegas Bowl.

This is Utah's first non-New Year's Six bowl appearance since 2019: It's hard not to consider the 2023 season something of a disappointment for the Utes. After winning the Pac-12 in 2021 and 2022, Utah finished the regular season with a record of 8-4 and failed to reach the Pac-12 Championship Game. As a result, its run of consecutive appearances in the Rose Bowl comes to an end, and it's the first time the Utes have been in a non-New Year's Six game since the 2019 Alamo Bowl (they did not play in a bowl during the 2020 COVID-19 season). It is not their first trip to Sin City, however. This will be Utah's fifth appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl, but the first since 2015.

Nobody expected Northwestern to be here: Shortly before the season began, a hazing scandal led to Northwestern firing the winningest coach in program history, Pat Fitzgerald. Braun was named interim, and the Wildcats went into the 2023 season expected to be the worst team in the Big Ten. Instead, the Cats went 7-5 and finished second in the Big Ten West, winning four of their last five games. Braun was named the Big Ten's Coach of the Year, and now the Cats have a chance to win their first bowl game since the 2020 Citrus Bowl. That's also the last time Northwestern played in a bowl game.

Las Vegas Bowl prediction, picks

Odds via SportsLine consensus

With Utah missing so many key players, it's hard to pass up on getting nearly a full touchdown with Northwestern. While the Wildcats aren't explosive on offense, they'll be at mostly full-strength. Kyle Whittingham's Utah teams always show up to bowl games ready to play, but considering how shorthanded the Utes will be, it's hard to trust they'll be able to control the game. Pick: Northwestern +6.5

Which college football picks can you make with confidence during bowl season? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned well over $2,000 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons -- and find out.