NCAA Football Game Preview: Penn State vs. Utah

Jan 2, 2023

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Game: Penn State Nittany Lions @ Utah Utes

Time: 5:00 p.m.

Odds: Nittany Lions -1, Utes +1

Total: 53.5

The No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2, 8-3-1) and the No. 7 Utah Utes (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS), the back-to-back Pac-12 champion, will play each other in the Rose Bowl today. Penn State’s only losses this season were to No. 2 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State, both of which made the College Football Playoff.

As the team gears up for its second consecutive Rose Bowl after losing a 48-45 shootout to Ohio State last season, the Utes opened as thin 1.5-point favorites. The line has shifted and now Penn State is a slight 1-point chalk. The total was initially set at 48.5 points and has since increased to 52. In the Utes’ last two games, the total has gone OVER, and both of those totals were over 52 points.

The Utes’ offense is on fire, scoring 42.3 points per game on average over their final three games and 214 points in their last five. Utah is 4-1 ATS in its last five games. With nearly 3,000 passing yards and 25 touchdown passes, QB Cameron Rising has a QBR of 82.9, placing him among the top 10 quarterbacks in the nation. This season, he has thrown for two or more touchdowns in eight games.

Tavion Thomas, the Utes’ top rusher, amassed 687 rushing yards. However, the junior injured his toe and later declared for the NFL draft. Micah Bernard, who ranks second on the team in rushing yards with 474, and freshman Ja’Quinden Jackson, who ran for 450 yards and eight touchdowns, are both capable backups for Utah. Over the course of his last two games, Jackson has five touchdowns.

Penn State QB Sean Clifford will play his last college game after setting a school record with 10,382 passing yards and 84 touchdown passes. Over his last five games, the four-year starter connected on nine scoring strikes. Clifford will have RBs Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton in the backfield. Both are freshmen. The pair of PSU running backs has amassed nearly 1,800 rushing yards and has collectively scored 19 touchdowns.

Right now, the Nittany Lions’ defense is outstanding. Throughout the season, it limited opponents to an average of just 18 points per game, but over their final three games, that number dropped to a remarkable 8.7 PPG. A big night by the Penn State defense would go a long way in helping the Nittany Lions get their 11th win of the season.

The Utes have a variety of offensive tools that can be used to score touchdowns. TE Dalton Kincaid is the top receiver with 890 yards and 8 touchdowns. Four other Utes have at least 300 receiving yards. If the aerial attack falters, Utah has three running backs that have accumulated 360 yards or more on the ground.

In his last five games, Clifford has been sacked nine times. The Utes had 38 total sacks and were ranked eighth in the country. Utah is 6-1 SU in its last seven games and 4-1 ATS in its last five. Penn State is 5-1 SU and 5-0-1 ATS in its last six games.

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