The Rose Bowl famously does not like being moved off New Year’s Day, but every so often, it gets bumped to January 2 when the first falls on a Sunday. That is the case this season when Pac-12 Champions and No. 8 ranked Utah (10-3) face No. 11 Penn State (10-2).
The good news for the Rose Bowl is they have the last time slot on Monday all to themselves as the last game of the day in a traditional Pac-12/Big Ten matchup.
These teams enter the College Football Rose Bowl having never met in their history. Monday’s kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. ET at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, airing on ESPN. Utah is favored by 1,5 points with a point total of 52.5.
Penn State Nittany Lions Overview
Penn State is 1-2 in the Rose Bowl, with their only win coming in 1995. The only losses for James Franklin’s squad this season came to the two Big Ten teams in the playoffs: Michigan and Ohio State. They lost to both by double digits while winning their other seven conference games by an average of 23.9 ppg.
Penn State got the job done with their offense all season, ranking third in the Big Ten behind Michigan and OSU in scoring (35.8 ppg) and total offense (432.4 ypg). Quarterback Sean Clifford is a redshirt senior with over 10,000 career passing yards. This season he has 2,543 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he won’t have top target Parker Washington, who got hurt in November.
Freshman running back Nicholas Singleton was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year with 941 yards on the ground. He led all FBS freshmen with 6.32 yards per rush and set a PSU freshman record with ten touchdowns. Singleton will get plenty of touches as he averages 111.3 all-purpose yards, and another freshman, Kaytron Allen, has 830 rushing yards and nine scores.
Penn State will be without its best defense as cornerback Joey Porter Jr. opted out to get ready for the draft. His absence will make it difficult to cover Utah’s strong offense. PSU allows 212.8 ypg passing, 105.2 ypg rushing on the season, and 18.0 ppg.
Utah Utes Overview
The Utes lost their first game of the season, by a field goal at Florida, before winning four in a row. After a loss to UCLA, they knocked off USC and started another four-game win streak that ended at Oregon. But when Oregon lost the following week, Utah moved into the Pac-12 Championship Game, where they beat USC handily to make it to the Rose Bowl for a second straight year.
Cam Rising had a great season as Utah quarterback, with 2,939 yards and 25 touchdowns. He completed more than 66% of his passes and enters the Rose Bowl on a nice run with at least 215 yards and three touchdowns in three of the last four Utah games.
The Utes will be tested depth-wise in this game, as Tavion Thomas and Dalton Kincaid are out. Thomas led the team in rushing this season, while Kincaid, a tight end, led the team in receiving. Ja’Quinden Jackson and Micah Bernard will take over running back duties, and they have combined for more than 400 yards in the last two games.
Rising still has two big-play wideouts in Devaughn Vele and Money Parks, as his top targets. Vele has 50 catches for 595 yards and five touchdowns on the season, while Parks has 402 yards and two touchdowns.
Utah led the Pac-12 in both total offense (472.7 ypg) and total defense (325.3 ypg) and were one of five Power Five teams to rank in the top 20 nationally in both categories.
Penn State/Utah Prediction
Utah is favored by 1.5 points on the spread and -120 on the money line. Penn State is a +110 money line underdog and +1.5 points on the spread. The total is 52.5 points, with both the over and under at -110.
Penn State struggled against the two best teams they played this season and only beat Purdue by four points. Utah has enough playmakers on offense to put up points against the PSU defense, especially with Porter out.
While this game probably won’t be as explosive as the 48-45 Utah loss to Ohio State in last year’s Rose Bowl, it should be competitive. Rising is easier to trust at this point than Clifford, and the Utah coaching staff has done a great job in bowl games. Look for Utah to win a close one.