For the second time in three years, Utah will be going bowling in San Diego.
On Sunday, the 23rd-ranked Utes accepted an invitation to face California in the Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on Dec. 23.
"We had a great experience when we played there in 2007 and our players and staff are excited to be going back," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted that the Utes have 25 players from Southern California on their roster. "Cal is a formidable opponent and one we look forward to playing. We like playing Pac-10 teams and we anticipate a great game."
Both teams are making school-record seventh consecutive bowl appearances.
"We're so pleased that we will be welcoming these two terrific teams and their fans to San Diego later this month," bowl president Barbara Warden said in making the announcement. "With the Utes and Golden Bears, I think it's safe to expect that we're in for one heck of a ball game."
And one laced with intrigue.
A reunion of sorts will take place with Cal offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig facing a Utah team he helped guide to the Sugar Bowl championship last season.
"It's an interesting dynamic to the game, for sure. I think it probably works both ways," Whittingham said. "He knows our defensive scheme inside and out, but obviously we're well versed in his offense."
The sidebar to the game, he added, will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Utah offensive lineman Zane Beadles acknowledged it'll be nice for the media to play up the Ludwig ties.
"It will be a good bowl for us — a good opportunity and a good experience," Beadles said. "He's very well respected throughout the team. It'll be fun."
There's nothing personal, he continued, about facing Ludwig. The coach left the Utes after four seasons on Whittingham's staff.
"He's a good guy and he's a good coach," Beadles said. "He was here for most of my career and it'll be good to see him again. Obviously, though, we want to come away with the win."
The Utes enter the game with the nation's longest active bowl win streak. They've prevailed in eight straight.
Cal, meanwhile, has won four consecutive bowl games.
"We look forward to playing a quality opponent from the Mountain West Conference," said head coach Jeff Tedford.
The Bears are looking to bounce back from a 42-10 loss at Washington last Saturday. The setback knocked them out of the polls and down to the Poinsettia Bowl.
"They're still a talented team," said Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. "They've had some ups and downs like we had this season."
Beadles has seen Cal play on television a couple of times this season, but admits he doesn't know a lot about the Bears.
"We'll get tape on them I'm sure this week and start looking at them," Beadles said.
After practicing three times without knowing who their opponent was, the Utes are eager to enter the next phase. Practices are scheduled for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week.
"It's good. A lot of people were just milling around and looking for stuff to do," Sylvester said. "Now we can watch film on our opponent and get ready to play."
Utah's bowl destination was also unknown until Sunday. There was speculation the Utes could end up In Las Vegas instead of San Diego.
Sylvester, a Las Vegas native, admits it would have been nice to finish his college career at home. However, he said the team is happy to be headed back to California.
"They treated us well last time and San Diego is a great city," Beadles noted. "Either way, we were going to be fine."
Same goes, he said, for the Utes ending up at the Poinsettia Bowl — less than a year after playing on the national stage against Alabama in New Orleans.
"I wouldn't say it's disappointing. It's a totally different year," Beadles explained. "Cal's a very respected program. They've played good football at time this season and they've got some very good athletes. It'll be a good challenge for us."
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