Penn State takes on Utah in the Rose Bowl in a game where both teams saw minimal opt outs. Both teams saw opt outs on both sides of the ball, but were still able retain key players on both sides.
Penn State tight end Brenton Strange announced his intention to declare for the draft. But, he is still playing in the Rose Bowl, which is huge for the Nittany Lions offense. Utah’s biggest losses are tight end Dalton Kincaid and defensive back Clark Phillips III.
The Utes were in the Rose Bowl game last year, losing 48-45 to Ohio State. However, that won’t be the case this year for the Utes.
Here are the top five reasons why Utah will beat Penn State in the Rose Bowl game.
Oct 15, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) throws against the USC Trojans in the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
When Sean Clifford is on his game, it is certainly fun to watch, and it would be great to see him end his Penn State career on a high note. However, Utah quarterback Cameron Rising has been quite an underrated quarterback this season. He didn’t lose a ton of talent on offense, and he threw for nearly 3,000 passing yards this season, 25 touchdowns and a top 10 quarterback rating (83.0) for the Utes. Rising has done a nice job putting up numbers while having less talent around him, and that is what he will do against Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
Utah Passing Game
Oct 1, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Jaylen Dixon (25) runs past Oregon State Beavers linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold (55) in the third quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
If there is one thing to know about Utah’s passing game, it’s that they bring a lot of experience to the table. Two of their three starting receivers are seniors — Solomon Enis and Jaylen Dixon. Rising will not have tight end Dalton Kincaid for this game, but he still has a good amount of talent to work with. On top of that, Penn State will also be without star cornerback Joey Porter Jr, as he opted out and declared for the draft. The Nittany Lions will have their work cut out for them, and the Utes can take advantage of them not having Porter Jr. for this game.
Utah Offensive Line
Nov 26, 2022; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Utah Utes offensive lineman Paul Maile (54) lines up across from the Colorado Buffaloes in the first quarter at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Rising has been sacked eight times this season, while Sean Clifford has been sacked 14 times. Utah’s offensive line has kept their consistency for much of this season, and they have the talent to prevent any sort of pressure from Penn State’s defense. The Nittany Lions certainly have players like Abdul Carter and Chop Robinson to watch out for. However, the Utes front five has the talent to prevent any momentum from the Nittany Lions defense in the Rose Bowl game.
Utah has plenty of momentum right now
Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham reacts after being doused with Gatorade in the second half of the Pac-12 Championship against the Southern California Trojans at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
There are two things to this point. First, the Utes are coming off an impressive 47-24 victory in the Pac-12 championship game over USC, knocking them out of the College Football Playoff. Sure, Utah did it with some of their top players, including Kincaid. However, Kincaid wasn’t a top pass-catcher in that game. Much of that was because Kincaid had been dealing with an injury, resulting in him to opt out of the Rose Bowl game. The second point is that the Utes allowed a large comeback to Ohio State in last year’s Rose Bowl matchup. You can imagine the Utes will be coming into this game with a big chip on their shoulder. Utah has plenty of momentum their way, and despite losing some key players on both sides of the ball, they are looking for revenge, and they have the talent to take down the Nittany Lions in this Rose Bowl matchup.
Pressuring the quarterback
Nov 19, 2022; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) throws the ball during the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Utah’s defense has a combined 38 sacks this season. Their sack leader is defensive end and Stanford transfer Gabe Reid, who has had quite an impressive season with the Utes, recording 34 total tackles and a career-high 5.5 sacks. Another area where the Utes have excelled in is their linebacker core, led by senior and Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabete. He finished this season with 52 total tackles and a career-high 5 sacks for the Utes. Utah’s defense lost one key player in defensive back Clark Phillips III, who opted out of this game and declared for the draft. However, they still have the talent to get to the quarterback and grab momentum early in this game.
Want to play devil’s advocate? Here are the top five reasons why Penn State will beat Utah in the Rose Bowl.