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Sean Clifford will be X-factor in the 2023 Rose Bowl

Against Utah’s subpar secondary, Sean Clifford needs to step up one final time.



Nov 13, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) gestures from the line of scrimmage during the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium. Michigan defeated Penn State 21-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Since the start of 2019, Sean Clifford has been Penn State’s starting quarterback. Now, in Clifford’s final game as a Nittany Lion, the 6th-year quarterback must step up in the Rose Bowl.

Clifford’s 2022 season

Coming into this year, most hoped that Clifford would either leave or lose the job to freshman sensation Drew Allar. While Allar definitely saw his fair share of playing time, Clifford has been the guy for Penn State this year.

Honestly, I don’t think Clifford made a massive difference one way or another. Penn State probably would have finished 10-2 with losses at Michigan and vs. Ohio State regardless of who was under center, so I am not terribly upset about the call.

Still, in games such as the White Out, it was clear that Clifford elevated the Nittany Lions’ performance. Throughout this season, Clifford compiled over 2,500 yards, 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a QBR of 71.9.

Sean Clifford also inked his name into the Penn State football record books this season as he broke the Nittany Lions’ all-time passing record.

Utah’s defensive matchups

Heading into the Rose Bowl, one can only hope that Penn State will come ready to play against the PAC-12 Champions this afternoon. The Nittany Lions are currently 1.5-point underdogs against the Utes, though no one is entirely sure what to expect.

On offense, Utah is one of the most well-rounded programs in the nation. On defense, Utah has an incredible rushing defense; however, when it comes to stopping the pass, the story changes.

Penn State football is up against the No. 54 passing defense in the country at 5 PM. Unlike the Utes’ rushing defense — which is ranked No. 15 in the nation — their passing defense is relatively weak.

Sean Clifford needs to step up one final time

After six seasons at Penn State, Clifford’s career all comes down to this afternoon. On one hand, Clifford has a winning record and solid stats at Penn State. On the other, he led PSU to an 11-11 record from 2020-21 and is not the most well-liked player in Nittany Lion history.

Clifford is a strange subject when it comes to Penn State’s feeling towards him. There seems to be just as much good as there is bad during Clifford’s four-year stretch as the Nittany Lions’ starting QB. Tonight, Clifford ends his career in a game that could largely determine how he is remembered at PSU.

A win and Clifford will end on a high note: an 11-win season and Rose Bowl victory for the first time since 1995. A loss and Clifford finishes his final season with a 10-3 record, a 1-2 bowl record, and outside of the top-10.

Against a team like Utah, Clifford will be needed. The Utes are likely planning on shutting down Penn State’s talented freshman RB duo — Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen — which puts even more burden on Sean Clifford.

After all of these years — the wins, losses, highs, and lows — Clifford has one final shot at a lasting legacy. For better or for worse, Sean Clifford will be the X-factor in this year’s Rose Bowl game.


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