LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's rare in college football that teams can reach a first milestone and possibly a last one as well in the same game. Yet, that's the situation Utah and Penn State will find themselves in for the Rose Bowl.
The Utes and Nittany Lions will meet for the first time in the 109th edition of the Granddaddy of Them All on Jan. 2.
“The fact that Penn State has played every Pac-12 school except for Utah, it’s not too often in 2022 that you’re able to do things for the first time ever, so that’s really cool,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.
It also could be the final Rose Bowl to feature the traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12 format. The game will be one of the CFP semifinals on Jan. 1, 2024, and will be a quarterfinal game for the 2024 season after it agreed to amend its contract in order for the playoff field to expand to 12 teams.
“I think there’s going to be major changes in my opinion, huge changes in college football. It’s going to be pretty much unrecognizable next five, six years compared to what it is now,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’re excited to be able to play in the Rose Bowl this year in the traditional fashion and in its traditional time slot and all that type of stuff.”
The seventh-ranked Utes (10-3, No. 8 CFP) are making their second consecutive appearance in the Granddaddy of Them All after their 47-24 victory over Southern California in the Pac-12 championship game Friday. Utah's hopes of defending its conference title appeared to be over after a Nov. 19 loss to Oregon, but it made it to Las Vegas after the Ducks lost at Oregon State and Washington defeated Washington State.
It will be Utah’s fourth appearance in a New Year’s Six Bowl. The Utes lost to Ohio State 48-45 in the third-highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history on Jan. 1. They defeated Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to conclude the 2004 season and beat Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
No. 9 Penn State (10-2, No. 11 CFP) is making the trip to Pasadena for the first time since the 2016 season after Big Ten champion Michigan and Ohio State were selected for the College Football Playoff. Even if the Buckeyes had not qualified for the CFP, the Tournament of Roses committee appeared set to take the Nittany Lions so that Ohio State would not appear for the third time in five years.
Both teams feature young running backs.
Penn State's Nicholas Singleton was named the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year after rushing for 941 yards and setting a school freshman record for rushing touchdowns with 10. Backfield mate Kaytron Allen, also a freshman, has 830 yards and nine TDs.
Utah redshirt freshman Ja’Quinden Jackson had 105 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns in the win over USC.
Utah junior Cam Rising was named the Most Valuable Player of the Pac-12 championship game after passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He is 18-6 as the Utes starter.
Penn State's Sean Clifford, a sixth-year senior, will play in his 51st and final college game. He is one of three Power Five conference quarterbacks with 10,100 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in his career.
Both teams were on the wrong end of shootouts in their last appearances in the Granddaddy of Them All.
Penn State was defeated by USC 52-49 in 2017 in what was at the time the highest-scoring Rose Bowl. It was surpassed a year later when Georgia defeated Oklahoma 54-48 in double overtime.
Utah lost to Ohio State 48-45 on Jan. 1 on a last-second field goal.
Penn State has won four straight by an average of 31.3 points after a 44-31 loss to Ohio State on Oct. 29. Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. has already declared for the NFL draft and opted out of the Rose Bowl.
THRIVING IN THE MIDDLE
Utah has outscored teams by 235 points in the second and third quarters this season, the best margin in the Football Bowl Subdivision. It also has a 122-47 advantage in the middle eight of games (last four minutes of first half and first four minutes of second half).
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