After a solid 10-2 campaign, Penn State football is ranked No. 11 in the land and headed to the Rose Bowl game this afternoon. Here is what to expect from the Nittany Lions against the 8th-ranked Utah Utes.
Penn State football: the 2022 season
After a rough stretch from 2020-2021, Penn State football needed a big year to get itself straightened out. Despite most penciling in the Nittany Lions for another 7-5 season over the summer, we will watch Penn State take on Utah in the Rose Bowl later today.
There are a few blemishes on Penn State’s resume despite its impressive 10-2 record. The Nittany Lions have a 41-17 loss to No. 2 Michigan and a 44-31 loss to No. 4 Ohio State. What’s even worse is that the Lions have an 0-2 record against ranked competition, although that is due to the fact that the Big Ten failed to produce fourth ranked team this year.
While Penn State football might not have a ranked win, the Nittany Lions do have a series of other impressive wins on its resume. In Week 1, Penn State beat Purdue (Big Ten West Champs) 35-31 on the road. The week after, the Nittany Lions downed Ohio (MAC East Champs) 46-10 in their home opener.
In Week 3, Penn State went to SEC country and became the first Big Ten team to play Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Lions left Alabama with a 41-12 win and flew up in the rankings. Sure, Penn State has a series of unimpressive wins as well — namely a 33-14 win over Central Michigan and a 17-7 win over Northwestern — but those were at a minimum this year.
Instead of squeaking past lesser competition, James Franklin and Co. floored everyone but the Big Ten’s two CFP teams. The Nittany Lions beat Minnesota (9-4) 45-17, Indiana (4-8) 45-14, Rutgers (4-8) 55-10, Michigan State (5-7) 35-16, and Maryland (8-5) 30-0.
For the first time perhaps ever, a James Franklin-led Penn State team beat everyone they were supposed to, mostly in dominant fashion. Regardless of the opponents, this is a massive step in the right direction for Penn State’s program.
Previewing No. 8 Utah in the Rose Bowl
Utah comes into the Rose Bowl with high hopes. Following the Utes’ up-and-down season — which saw them finish 9-3 overall — Utah proceeded to knock off No. 4 USC in the PAC-12 Championship game. The win punched Utah’s ticket to the Rose Bowl for the second-straight season.
Last year, Utah lost a thriller vs. Ohio State in the Rose Bowl game. The Utes’ matchup with Penn State is more than just a game, it’s revenge for last season’s loss.
The Utes have a scary good offense and should be a handful for Penn State’s young defense. Utah boasts the No. 7 scoring offense, averaging exactly 40 points per game thus far.
The Utes appear to take a step backwards in the red zone as they are T-73rd in red zone offense; however, as a whole the Utes’ offense is scary good. Utah is also ranked 16th in total offense, 10th in rushing offense, and 46th in passing offense.
Utah’s defense has also been a solid unit this year. So far, the Utes have the 18th-ranked total defense (325.3 yards allowed per game) and the 19th-ranked scoring defense (20.38 points per game).
Utah has a strong rushing defense, which is ranked No. 15 in the nation, so Penn State’s two freshman running backs may have a tough time finding lanes. As for the passing attack, Sean Clifford and his receivers will need to get in space against the Utes’ 54th-ranked passing defense.
If Utah plays how they have all year, this game may come down to Sean Clifford’s ability to burn the Utes through the air.
Predictions for Penn State football in the Rose Bowl
So far this year, we have no reason to doubt Penn State in this game. The Nittany Lions are 10-2 overall and its only two losses are to Michigan and Ohio State — two teams in the College Football Playoff. This afternoon PSU must simply play how it has since the Ohio State game: physical, gritty, and fast-paced.
If the Nittany Lions can limit Utah’s offense and expose the many weaknesses in the Utes’ defense, I love Penn State’s chances here. Both teams are missing a few players due to opt-outs, but they appear to mostly cancel out, so I am not sure how much of a factor that will be.
When it is all said and done, I think this year’s Rose Bowl could end up being a lot like the 2017 Rose Bowl. This time, I think Penn State football will come away with the victory.
Score: Penn State 37, Utah 34
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