It’s one of the most prestigious bowls on the slate as the Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Utah Utes in the Rose Bowl. Utah is making their return to the Rose Bowl after last year’s electric game against Ohio State, looking to avenge last year’s season finale loss. It won’t be easy after early opt outs, but Penn State is currently dealing with the same which makes this game very intriguing. Can Utah get their revenge?
Penn State Vs. Utah Odds
Oddsmakers initially believed so, opening the Utes as a -3 favorite. After the opt out news of star players Dalton Kincaid and Tavion Thomas, bettors have hammered the Nittany Lions down to as low as +1.5. Penn State is dealing with opt outs for the NFL Draft themselves as their most notable defensive player cornerback Joey Porter Jr has decided to skip the game. This will be worth monitoring as we near kickoff for more potential opt outs.
As for the total, oddsmakers tempered their expectations for points to be put on the board as they opened the total at 49. In light of both defensive units losing some key pieces to the draft, bettors have been quick to hammer the over by taking it up to as high as 52.5. This breaks the barrier of a lighter key number of 52 with indication that it will continue to rise. Even as an anemic offense at times, Penn State should have little issue moving the ball against the Utes.
Penn State Vs. Utah Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Over 52
With that being said, I will take the over at no higher than 52. It’s not pretty, but Sean Clifford and the Penn State offense will be capable of moving the ball down the field against the Utah defense. This hasn’t been a typical year for the usual dominant Utes, a unit that normally is known for their defense. While successful as a whole, their Pass Rush has been exceptionally weak by finishing the season ranked 97th.
Without their ability to generate pressure to the backfield, this gives Sean Clifford ample time to make the right read. That is vitally important to our over ticket as Clifford has been susceptible to Havoc at times when under duress. While not exactly translating to him throwing an interception, only throwing seven interceptions this season, but leading to time consuming stalled out drives for minimal gains.
Not only has Utah failed to field an effective pass rush, but they have been exceptionally susceptible to Off Explosiveness. They finished the season ranked 91st in Def Rush Explosiveness and 86th in defending the pass. This gives the potential for the anemic Penn State offense to connect on the big play, especially off the back of their running back Nick Singleton. This is an alarming contrast to their Def Success ranks, one of the higher ranked units in the nation.
If Singleton can generate any sort of ground success, then this will open up the passing lanes for Clifford to slowly pick apart. While Parker Washington’s absence hurts as he led the team in receiving yards, the Nittany Lions turned to a more by committee approach and will look to do the same in this one. Expect a heavier usage of the tight ends.
Penn State Vs. Utah Key Matchups
Can Utah generate scoring production without their best two players?
Utah backups vs Penn State defense
No Tavion Thomas no problem as his backup Micah Bernard has exploded onto the scene in his limited usage. This is vital for Utah’s scoring output as Penn State will still field an elite secondary to defend the pass, even without NFL talent Joey Porter Jr.
Not only did Bernard step up, but Utah has multiple running backs to work with as fellow backup Ja’Quinden Jackson has provided a much needed speedy dynamic to the backfield. He averages an incredible 6.9 yards per carry with eight touchdowns to boot.
Both of them will have their number called upon again as Utah will look to establish the run with their pass game suffering a massive loss with the opt out of star tight end Dalton Kincaid. This allows the Utes to avoid the PSU second level and give them a chance to take advantage of their 83rd ranked Def Rush Explosiveness.
With Penn State being able to generate sustained drives down the field and Utah still fielding weapons to exploit the vaunted Nittany Lion defense, I will take the over at no higher than 52.