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No. 8 Utah vs. No. 11 Penn State in Rose Bowl: Who has the edge?

No. 8 Utah (10-3 overall, 7-2 Pac-12)  vs. No. 11 Penn State (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten)

When: Monday, Jan. 2, 2 p.m. PT

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena

TV/Radio: ESPN, AM 570

Line: Utah by 1.5

Notable injury designations/opt-outs:

Utah: Out: TE Brant Kuithe (leg), TE Dalton Kincaid (undisclosed injury), CB Clark Phillips III (opt-out), Tavion Thomas (undisclosed)

Penn State: Out:  CB Joey Porter Jr. (opt-out), WR Jaden Dottin (undisclosed), RB Keyvone Lee (undisclosed), WR Parker Washington (undisclosed); Questionable: TE Jerry Cross (undisclosed)

What’s at stake? The Utes look to win their first Rose Bowl in the program’s history. It will be their second appearance, having competed in Rose Bowl last year, losing to Ohio State. The Nittany Lions return to the game for their fifth appearance but their first since 2017. Penn State won its last Rose Bowl in 1995 and has lost its two appearances since then. It is the first head-to-head game between the two teams.

Who’s better? Utah won the Pac-12 Championship after winning six of their last seven games, with the only loss being by three points against Oregon. In Penn State’s two biggest games of the season, against CFP semifinalists Michigan and Ohio State in Big Ten play, the Nittany Lions were blown out.

Matchup to watch: Wide receivers vs. Cornerback: This matchup applies for both teams. Cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State) and Clark Phillips III (Utah) have decided to opt out of the bowl game. Look for Utah quarterback Cam Rising and Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford to try and exploit the opposing secondary and find opportunities for their respective receivers to make plays.

Utah wins if … the Utes’ offense makes quick decisions and holds its own against a physical Penn State defense led by safety Ji’Ayir Brown and linebacker Abdul Carter. … The Utes must establish the running game with sophomore running back Micah Bernard (Gahr High), who is filling in for Thomas.

Penn State wins if … the Nittany Lions can control the game with their backfield duo, Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, against the top-ranked rush defense in the Pac-12. Penn State must start fast and continue to build off that monument in the second half. … They struggled in the second half against both Michigan and Ohio State this season.

Prediction: Utah 40, Penn State 35: The Utes will lean on Rising and a key defensive stop to hold off Clifford and a young Penn State roster.

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