It’s take two for the Utes in the Penn State vs Utah matchup in the 2023 Rose Bowl. Utah made it to Pasadena last season for the first time in school history, and were up 35-21 on Ohio State at halftime, but the Buckeyes offense kept knocking and ultimately picked up a 48-45 win in a wildly entertaining game on New Year’s Day.
While Utah is familiar with everything that surrounds the Rose Bowl after playing here last year, Penn State will try to fight through all the intangibles although coach James Franklin did bring his team to this game after the 2016 season, but gave up 17 points unanswered in the 4th quarter in a 52-49 loss to USC. This game should be a battle, and the low PSU -1.5 point spread confirms this.
Solid Resume for PSU
With a win in the Penn State vs Utah prediction, PSU (10-2) can tie the 11-win mark they have put up three other times in Franklin’s nine years with the program. 10-2 had to be the preseason projection, as the Nittany Lions won all 10 games they were favored in and lost the two they were ‘dogs; 41-17 at Michigan (+7) and 44-31 at home against Ohio State (+15.5).
Penn State’s two losses came against teams in the College Football Playoff, but where does Pac-12 champion Utah fall in that hierarchy? The Utes gave USC their only two losses of the year, and their losses are understandable, 29-26 to Florida in the season opener on a hot night in Gainesville, 42-32 at #18 UCLA and 20-17 against #12 Oregon.
Nittany Lions QB Sean Clifford doesn’t have any Rose Bowl experience, but he’s seen just about everything else in his five years in Happy Valley, the last four as the starter. Clifford, as well as a backfield that has seen Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen combine for 1,762 rush yards and 19 TDs, has led PSU to six straight games scoring at least 30 points.
Opt Outs Going to Hurt Utah?
Much like Penn State, Utah has a deep RB backfield which is a good thing considering Tavion Thomas (687 yards, 7 TDs) is opting out for NFL draft prep. Micah Bernard and Ja’Quinden Jackson have combined for 924 yards and 12 TDs so the Utes should still be solid on the ground.
While the running game should be secure on Monday night, the Utah passing attack will be without TE Dalton Kincaid, who is the #2 TE draft prospect behind Notre Dame’s Matthew Mayer. You can tell just how big of a weapon Kincaid is based on his 16 catch, 234 yard explosion in the regular season win over USC.
Even without some key pieces, Utah has the X-factor in QB Cameron Rising who is a two year starter in Salt Lake City. Rising had two TD passes against Ohio State in the 2022 Rose Bowl and ran for another 92 yards but had no chance at the MVP after Buckeyes WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba hauled in 15 balls for 347 yards and 3 TDS.
Free Penn State vs Utah Prediction & Pick
Penn State’s offense is on fire down the stretch, while Utah scored 110 points in their last two games and hung 42+ points in four of their last five. The O/U being just 53.5 looks like a trap, but even 63.5 would have value on paper.
Free Pick: Over 53.5