Both Penn State and Utah tend to get overshadowed by more flamboyant teams in their own conference. The Nittany Lions have the misfortune of being in the same division as Ohio State and Michigan, two of the four teams selected to play in the College Football Playoffs. Southern California, Oregon, and UCLA were making headlines out of the Pac-12 conference.
These are two physical teams. Penn State was fourth in the Big Ten, allowing just 4.6 yards per play while Utah led the Pac-12 in total defense one year after star linebacker Devin Lloyd headed off to the NFL.
Sean Clifford of Penn State and Cameron Rising of Utah have combined to lead their teams to 49 wins as the starting quarterbacks.
This is Penn State’s fifth appearance in the Rose Bowl. The Nittany Lions are 1-3 in the previous three trips to Pasadena with the win coming in 1995 against Oregon. Utah is making its second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. The Utes fell 48-45 to Ohio State in their last outing.
Utah is eighth and Penn State is 11th in the College Football Rankings. Utah is ranked seventh and Penn State is ninth in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. In the American Football Coaches Association poll, Penn State comes in at No. 7 and Utah is 10th.
Utah is currently listed by the Las Vegas odds as a three-point favorite.
Penn State Nittany Lions
- Record: 10-2
- Record Against the Spread: 8-3-1
- Head coach: James Franklin, ninth season
- Head coaching record: 77-36 at Penn State, 101-51 college coaching record
Penn State will be without one of its top defensive players as cornerback Joey Porter Jr. opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. The good news is that nine of the top 16 tacklers for Penn State are either freshmen or sophomores so there will be plenty of players available on defense for Penn State.
On offense, freshmen Nicholas Singleton and Kayton Allen formed a dynamic 1-2 punch at running back. There was also a freshman making an impact on the other side of the ball with linebacker Abdul Carter Jr. leading the Nittany Lions with 10½ tackles for loss and 6½ sacks. He has six TFLs and four sacks over the last three games.
Penn State had a -3 turnover margin in the two losses and +13 in the 10 wins so ball security could be crucial if the seniors can become the first class for the Nittany Lions in more than a decade to win three bowl games over a five-year span.
Scoop on Free Play from the Locker Room
- Record: 10-3
- Record Against the Spread: 8-5
- Head coach: Kyle Whittingham, 18th season
- Head coaching record: 154-73
Relentless would be the best way to describe Utah’s performance in the Pac-12 title game.
The Utes had seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss as they had Heisman Trophy candidate Caleb Williams under duress and they will look for more of the same in the bowl game.
💪 @Utah_Football with a sack to stop the USC offense once again!
Utes defense stepping up 👀 pic.twitter.com/r0nebw7uxE
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 3, 2022
Utah will be without its best rusher once again as Tavion Thomas is preparing for the NFL Draft. Ja’Quinden Jackson and Micah Bernard combined for 203 yards on 24 carries and three TDs in the Pac-12 title game.
Rising has 45 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions to go with 12 scoring runs over the last two seasons.
Clark Phillips has six of Utah’s 12 interceptions while Mohamoud Diabate and Gabe Reid have combined for 22½ tackles for loss, with six of them coming in the Pac-12 final.
Utah has covered against the college football odds in four of its last five games.
Penn State vs Utah Game Information
- Date: Monday, Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET
- Location: Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, Calif.
- Line: Utah -3
- Moneyline: Penn State +125, Utah -145
- Total: 52
- Penn State vs Utah Live Stream: ESPN
Road to the Rose Bowl
Penn State is still trying to figure out how to beat division rivals Michigan and Ohio State, but it was undefeated against everybody else this season. The Nittany Lions won their last four games by an average of 31.3 points per game.
Utah is coming off a second straight Pac-12 championship. It might be harder to put forth a more dominant effort than what Utah did in scoring 23 points on USC in the conference title game.
It just feels right to have the Pac-12 champion in the Rose Bowl, although that is no longer a sure thing with the current state of college football. Both the Utes and Nittany Lions are in the top 20 nationally in the turnover margin so that is something to keep in mind for those who bet online.