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Rose Bowl Staff Predictions: No. 11 Penn State vs. No. 8 Utah

The Rose Bowl is finally here, folks.

Penn State approaches its New Year’s Six bowl appearance on a hot streak. Dominant performances against Maryland, Rutgers, and Michigan State closed out the Nittany Lions’ regular season. Despite last season’s bevy of opt-outs, Penn State will retain a majority of its core — losing only cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and wide receiver Parker Washington.

Utah secured its second consecutive Pac-12 Championship with a 47-24 victory over USC, despite the Trojans’ Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Led by quarterback Cam Rising, the Utes are seeking redemption for their Rose Bowl defeat last year.

Most of our staffers think Penn State will emerge from the Rose Bowl victorious on January 2.

Joe Lister (10-0): Penn State 35, Utah 31

I think this is going to be a close one no matter what. Utah, having beaten No. 10 USC twice this year, is battle proven. Penn State, having faced two playoff teams, is battle tested.

Both sides are retaining most of their talent for this game, making it as even as possible. However, I think Penn State will have that final edge to push it over the Utes. After four years as a starter, maybe Sean Clifford will go out in style with Penn State’s second Rose Bowl victory.

Aidan Conrad (5-2): Penn State 27, Utah 24

The Nittany Lions are going to leave Pasadena victorious. The defense will make crucial stops in the fourth quarter, allowing Sean Clifford to make one more game-winning drive with Penn State.

Luke Brown (7-1): Utah 27, Penn State 23

It’s hard to go the other direction, especially in Sean Clifford’s last game as a Nittany Lion. However, Utah is a very tough matchup for this Penn State group. Utah has a very opportunistic offense led by its star senior quarterback Cam Rising. The team is fourth in the country in total touchdowns and should give defensive coordinator Manny Diaz a lot to prepare for.

As for its resume, Utah has beaten a lot of good teams, including 10th-ranked USC two different times. The Utes’ losses come to very good teams in very close contests. It should be a thriller in Pasadena, but let’s hope I’m wrong.

Brendan Wagner (4-0): Penn State 21, Utah 10

A win in this game will be a huge momentum boost going into the next season with the likes of Drew Allar and Kaden Saunders taking on bigger roles in the offense. Expect the Nittany Lions to play fast and tough against Utah in their Rose Bowl revenge game.

Adam Babetski (8-3): Penn State 52, Utah 4

I’m not going to spell it out just in case someone’s grandmother is reading this, but read Caleb Williams’ fingernails for my opinion on this matchup.

It’ll be all the fun of the 2017 Rose Bowl, without the drawback of the other team punching back. The “Sean Clifford Legacy Game” will feature Penn State’s beloved quarterback slinging six touchdowns in the process of capping off his career, Utah’s football program, and the Rose Bowl’s existence outside of the playoff bracket. Don’t forget Nick Singleton going Journey Brown a la the 2019 Cotton Bowl, the two “pity safeties,” or Drew Allar being proclaimed next year’s starter on the postgame stage like he’s just been crowned the King of England. There’s going to be a second Great Salt Lake opening in the Rose Bowl’s parking lot, so bring your floaties with you to Pasadena. Go State.

Matt Brown (10-1): Penn State 42, Utah 38

Six years after losing what many consider the best Rose Bowl of all time, Penn State has a chance to win its first Rose Bowl game since 1995. This season has been a thrill ride of great highs and bad lows, but the Nittany Lions are ready to win their first bowl game since 2019. In what will be Sean Clifford’s final game in the blue and white, I think he will go out guns blazing and have one of the best games he has ever played.

It’s only fitting to close out his five-year career by going out on top with a victory out in Pasadena.

Mikey DeAngelis (9-3): Penn State 34, Utah 33

I think this is gonna be a fun one, folks. No matter which way it ends up going, I think this will be a close game. I’m looking forward to watching the Nittany Lions play in the Rose Bowl, and I’m optimistic that Penn State will come out on top in a shootout.

Nolan Wick (11-1): Utah 38, Penn State 34

Unfortunately, I think Utah will win the Rose Bowl. A combination of Utah’s recent experience in the Rose Bowl, high-scoring matchups, and its record against ranked teams this season is why the Utes will win. Quarterback Cam Rising is a very good and exciting player who powers a high-scoring offense, even without top receiving target Dalton Kincaid. Penn State will keep it close and it definitely could win, but I have a hard time believing James Franklin’s team will win given his record against top 10 teams and Utah’s recent track record.

Brady Miller (6-1): Penn State 34, Utah 27

Penn State is 1-3 all-time in the Rose Bowl, with its last loss coming in 2017 against soon-to-be Big Ten opponent, USC.

I think Sean Clifford will have a great game and leave Penn State with a huge Rose Bowl victory. I am predicting two passing touchdowns and another on the ground for the sixth-year quarterback. I am also interested in seeing how the two-headed monster backfield can perform on the big stage.

The loss of tight end Dalton Kincaid for the Utes is massive and will limit what Cam Rising is capable of doing through the air. If the Nittany Lion defense is able to shut down Rising’s escape ability, Penn State will escape Pasadena with a W.

Frank Marzano (10-2): Penn State 31, Utah 28

I think this is a very evenly-matched game and has the potential to go down as another Rose Bowl classic. There’s a lot of hype surrounding Utah’s defense, but I believe Penn State knows how to play against that type of defense coming from the Big Ten. I also think Sean Clifford and all the departing players will ball out in his final game in the blue and white. It’s evident that this is a tight-knit group, and there will be a lot of emotion in the game. Give me the Nittany Lions.

Sam Fremin (11-1): Utah 27, Penn State 22

Be wary of those who underestimate Utah. There’s a reason the team defeated Caleb Williams’ USC twice. There’s a reason the team won the Pac-12 Championship. There’s a reason the team is ranked No. 8 in the country.

I expect the Nittany Lions to play one of their best games all season, but a weak stretch at some point during the game will be the death knell. James Franklin’s group has proven it can play without Joey Porter Jr, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the wide receivers this season even when Parker Washington was healthy. Utah may be too much to handle.

Ryan Parsons (9-3): Penn State 41, Utah 38

Everyone is talking about how tough these defenses are, which means it’s going to be a boat race. The Nittany Lions and the Utes seem to be pretty evenly matched, but I believe the losses of Dalton Kincaid and Clark Phillips III will give Penn State the edge when the dust settles.

Gabe Angieri (12-0): Penn State 30, Utah 27

These two teams are as evenly matched as it gets, in my opinion. This one is going to be a nail-biter.

I think the game will ultimately come down to which team makes the “big play” on defense. I think a late turnover forced by Manny Diaz’s defense will allow the Nittany Lions to kick a game-winning field late in the fourth quarter. It’s critical that Sean Clifford and the offense protect the football, and I believe they will for the most part.

Penn State will capture its second-ever Rose Bowl win on Monday in Pasadena.

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