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No. 23 Utah squares off with Cal in Poinsettia Bowl tonight

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

SAN DIEGO -- Jordan Wynn should feel pretty much at home when he leads No. 23 Utah against California in the Poinsettia Bowl on tonight.

Wynn, a true freshman quarterback, went 2-0 at Qualcomm Stadium in leading suburban Oceanside High to section titles.

"I had pretty solid games," said Wynn, who led Oceanside to the state title in 2007. "I definitely have some history there."

Granted, it's still a big step up from a prep powerhouse to a program that a year ago beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham expects Wynn to be fine. Wynn made his debut in the second half of a game against Wyoming on Oct. 31 and started the last four games, going 2-2.

"He's been thrust into some pretty difficult situations already this year, you know, at TCU in front of a packed house and a hostile environment, in a big-game setting, then our rivalry against BYU, in our last game of the year, on the road," Whittingham said. "So he's had some tests already that he's handled very well."

The Utes (9-3) were routed 55-28 at TCU in Wynn's second start, and lost 26-23 in overtime to BYU in his most recent game. He led the Utes to wins against New Mexico and San Diego State.

"He's a very composed individual, very poised and mature beyond his years," Whittingham said.

Wynn graduated from high school in December and enrolled at Utah in January, which allowed him to participate in spring ball.

"I think he can handle this one," Whittingham said. "Not much gets to him. He's an unflappable guy."

Utah has won eight straight bowl games, the best current streak in the country. Still, this bowl appearance is a step down for the Utes, who beat Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl last season, their second appearance and victory in a BCS bowl.

Utah played in the Poinsettia Bowl two years ago, beating Navy 35-32.

The Utes' other loss this year was to Pac-10 champion Oregon, 31-24 on Sept. 19 at Eugene.

"Utah, I don't think, is any different than any other Pac-10 team," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Utah can play in the Pac-10 and be very competitive. So I think our kids understand what we're up against here as far as Utah is concerned. They're a great football team and our kids have a lot of respect them. It's going to be like another Pac-10 game for us."

Cal (8-4) is in a bowl for a school-record seventh straight season. The Golden Bears are making their third appearance in a San Diego bowl in six years, having played in the Holiday Bowl in 2004 and '06.

The Golden Bears were routed by Pac-10 rivals Oregon, USC, Oregon State and Washington.

California star tailback Jahvid Best will not play as he continues his recovery from a frightening fall and concussion against Oregon State on Nov. 7.

Best missed the final three games and has not practiced since the injury.

Best is one of the most dynamic running backs in the country. He finished the season with 16 touchdowns and 867 yards rushing. He has not decided whether to return to Cal for his senior season.

Shane Vereen, who started two of the final three games at tailback, has 830 yards rushing.