Penn State Clashes with Utah in the Rose Bowl

10-2 Penn State will take on 10-3 Utah in the 2023 Rose Bowl. The No. 9 Nittany Lions look to secure a win over the No. 7 Utes.

The Penn State Nittany Lions will take on the Utah Utes in the 2023 Rose Bowl on January 2nd. The No. 9 Nittany Lions will be without star wide receiver Parker Washington and stand-out corner Joey Porter Jr. Washington missed the end of the regular season with an injury and will not participate in the Rose Bowl before moving on to the NFL. Whereas, Porter Jr. has opted out of the contest to prepare for the NFL Draft. Penn State was able to get other players reps throughout the end of the season in place of both players, so it won’t be that much different at those positions on Monday. Let’s see how Penn State stacks up against Utah in the 2023 Rose Bowl.

Date: January 2, 2023

Time: 5:00 PM ET

Where: Pasadena, California


Penn State Looks for a Rose Bowl Win

There are several things that are interesting heading into this match-up. First, this will be the 100th anniversary of Penn State’s first Rose Bowl appearance all the way back in 1923. The Nittany Lions faced USC (the California one) and lost 14-3. Hopefully, this will be a much better scoring game and a better result. Secondly, this is the first time Penn State and Utah will face each other. The two programs have never met on the football field.

Who to Watch on Offense For Penn State

The young Penn State running backs and the tight ends have been the bright spots on a 10-2 Nittany Lion offense this season. Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen have split the load for Penn State in the backfield throughout the season and it likely won’t be much different in this contest. If one rusher is shut down Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich will not hesitate to lean on the other.

The young backs have two completely different rushing styles, but if either gets in space it is game over for the opposing defense. Singleton finished his first regular season with 941 yards on the ground, 10 rushing touchdowns, and one additional receiving. He will look to hit 1,000 yards on the ground in his first season as a Nittany Lion. Allen has also been very productive. The true freshman has rushed for 830 yards, nine touchdowns, and also has added one through the air. Both backs are averaging over five yards per carry as well.

These two backs will look to exploit a defensive line that has struggled for the Utes this season. Despite some obvious struggles, Utah still ranks 15th in the nation in rushing defense. The Utes are allowing just under four yards per rush on the season. However, despite still allowing over 100 yards per game rushing over the course of the season, not one team rushed for over 100 yards in the final four contests for the Utes. Even though the Nittany Lions haven’t been at full strength on the offensive line since the beginning of the season, this will be a great match-up to watch. Further, if both right tackle Caedan Wallace and left tackle Olu Fashanu (who will both be returning to Penn State in 2023) are healthy, look out.

The Tight Ends

Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, and Tyler Warren are all available for the Rose Bowl. Strange announced that despite entering the NFL Draft he will be playing in the Rose Bowl and finishing the season with his teammates. This is huge for starting quarterback Sean Clifford who has already been navigating the offense without Washington. Clifford has leaned on the tight ends all season and the Rose Bowl likely won’t be much different. Utah is ranked 56th in the country in passing yards allowed this season. Further, that was with star cornerback Clark Phillips III, who the Utes will be without after opting out. Phillips III led Utah with six interceptions this season, which is 50% of the total for the entire defense. In addition, he scored off of two of those. Further, Phillips III was disruptive in the backfield from his cornerback position, accounting for two tackles for loss and one sack.

The trio of Penn State tight ends has accounted for 60 receptions this season. Strange leading the way with 32 receptions of his own. The three have also tallied 12 touchdowns throughout the 2022 season. As well as 770 receiving yards. Utah has undoubtedly been reviewing how to contain these three during Rose Bowl preparation. It will be fun to see what Yurcich has thought up to get the ball in their hands throughout the game.

How the Nittany Lions Defense Stacks Up

First, Porter Jr. is the only opt-out on defense for the Nittany Lions. The stingy Penn State secondary will be mainly intact for the Rose Bowl against Utah. Especially with Porter Jr. being limited toward the end of the season with an injury. Next, the Penn State defensive line will be getting a big-time piece of the puzzle back for this contest. Head Coach James Franklin stated this week that Smith Vilbert will be available for the Rose Bowl. Vilbert has not played at all in the 2022 season with his last game being last season’s Outback Bowl. The defensive end recorded three sacks in that contest. As a sophomore last season Vilbert only played in four games but was poised for a big role in 2022. In addition to his three sacks in the Outback Bowl, Vilbert had four tackles for loss. If he is able to play, it will add likely add a spark and a wrinkle to the Penn State defensive front. Especially with some key players opting out on the Utah offense.

Utah Will Need to Overcome Opt-Outs

Utah’s starting quarterback Cameron Rising will likely have to throw the ball more than he would like in this contest. The Utes will be without starting running back Tavion Thomas and backup running back Brant Kuithe on Monday. Thomas decided to opt out of the Rose Bowl and declare for the NFL Draft. Whereas Kuithe suffered a season-ending injury against Arizona State. However, the injury to Kuithe allowed Micah Bernard to step up. Bernard appeared in 13 games this season, rushed for 474 yards, and four touchdowns. Bernard will be the lead back in this contest, giving him the opportunity to show the coaches what he can do for 2023.

Rising will also be without starting tight end, Dalton Kincaid. Kincaid led the Utes offense in receptions this season with 70 which was 20 more than any other receiver. He also led the team in receiving yards with 890 and receiving touchdowns with eight. His presence will undoubtedly be missed. This absence will leave Rising with receiver Devaughn Vele to throw to. Vele is second on the team in receptions with 50 for 595 yards and five touchdowns. Watch for the Penn State secondary to key in on Vele, and the linebackers to watch for Bernard, who has 31 receptions of his own this season.