College Football Rose Bowl Game Betting Guide: Penn State and Utah clash during the best sunset in all of sports
In this morning’s picks, I mentioned my current record and how I vowed to finish the bowl season with a winning record in positive units. Well, I’m feeling myself so I’m going to repeat it because I went 8-2* on Saturday’s bets (not including the Georgia live moneyline win) which brings me to 16-13 on the week with two lottery ticket parlay winners.
*those losses technically do not count. They were heart picks based on my hatred for the Iowa football program and not based on facts. So I basically went 10-0 on Saturday.
But now, it’s time for the Grandaddy of Them All as my alma-mater, the Penn State Nittany Lions, faces off against the Utah Utes fresh off a Pac-12 Championship beat down of the USC Trojans. Head coach Kyle Whittingham’s squad totaled 533 yards with 223 on the ground and 310 through the air.
The Rose Bowl Game (Pasadena, FL)
Utah (-1.5) vs. Penn State | O/U 54.0
Humongous Disclaimer: I am a Penn State alumni and co-host of a Penn State Nittany Lion football podcast, so take all this with a grain of salt. I will do everything in my power to give an unbiased preview of the 2023 Rose Bowl Game.
The Nittany Lions play in their fourth New Year’s Six bowls since James Franklin arrived in 2016. It’s their second Rose Bowl Game in six seasons after falling to Sam Darnold and the USC Trojans 52-49 in 2017. Trace McSorley threw an interception on the first play of that game and tossed his third on the game-winning drive with 0:27 left in the 4th quarter, tied 49-49. Clearly, I am not over that one, and it’s where my disdain for Sam Darnold began.
Okay, that’s enough of that! It’s 2022, and Penn State has one of the most talented youthful groups of players in college football. Led by their superstar freshman duo at running back, Nick Singleton won Big Ten Freshman of the Year (941 yards, 10 TDs), and Kaytron “Fatman” Allen doesn’t miss a beat when he enters the game (830 yards, 9 TDs).
Singleton averages 6.3 yards per carry and has the speed to take just about any carry to paydirt. Just ask Auburn about his 124-yard, two-touchdown performance on only ten carries and Maryland about his 122-yard, two-touchdown game on just eleven attempts. Oh, and the #1 ranked running back in Pennsylvania coming out of Governor Mifflin also returns kickoffs, averaging almost 26 yards per return and taking one back 100 yards against Rutgers.
Complementing Nick Singleton’s lightning ability, Kaytron Allen got the nickname “Fatman” after he came to Happy Valley weighing 225 pounds. His seek-contact high school running style certainly deserved the moniker, but Allen has since dropped to just over 200 pounds. The “Fatman” can still knock defenders on their keister, but his elusiveness, vision, and jump cuts have become a staple to his incredible freshman campaign.
Sixth-year senior QB Sean Clifford technically can return for an unprecedented seventh collegiate season due to redshirts and COVID eligibility. But with the #1 ranked quarterback recruit in the country, Drew Allar, waiting in the wings, this looks like Captain Cliff’s final ride. Penn State fans (rightfully) have given Clifford a ton of criticism for his accuracy woes on short to intermediate routes and under throws on deep passes, but the kid (I guess, man now) is a gamer.
One of Clifford’s favorite targets, WR Parker Washington, entered his name in April’s Draft and will miss the Rose Bowl Game (PFF’s 5th-ranked WR prospect). In his absence, Western Kentucky transfer WR Mitchell Tinsley, WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith, and the Nittany Lions’ trio of tight ends will all step up in the passing attack.
Brenton Strange not only leads the tight end room in receiving yards (362 yards, 5 TDs), but he’s one of the best in-line blocking tight ends in the nation. Strange’s combination of blocking, route running, physicality, and ball security will make him a fixture on Sundays, and selfishly I want the Eagles to pair him with Dallas Goedert.
Theo Johnson played in just seven games this year but went for 300 yards and four touchdowns on 19 receptions. He’s good to go for this one and presents another mismatch in the passing game. Lastly, Tyler Warren has nine catches on the year, and three have gone for touchdowns. He’s one of the better blockers on the entire team and is addicted to finding the endzone when he gets the ball.
While the Lions have three tight ends as potential playmakers, Utah lost their top two during the regular season. Senior Brant Kuithe tore his ACL at the end of September, and Dalton Kincaid stepped up big in his absence.
The six-foot-four, 240-pound mismatch opted out to enter the NFL Draft after not playing at 100% in the Pac 12 Championship. Kincaid led the Utes with 70 receptions, 890 yards, and eight receiving touchdowns. Replacing one the best tight-end tandem in college football has been a task for Whittingham, but he always finds the next guy up.
It’s not injuries that will force some inexperienced players into the Rose Bowl Game, but both teams’ top cornerbacks will sit this one out as they prepare to hear their names announced on Day One of the NFL Draft. Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr legitimately shuts down an entire side of the football field.
Purdue targeted him 16 times in Week One, leading to zero touchdowns and five pass breakups for Porter Jr. He saw only 14 more passes thrown his way for the rest of the season as teams learned not to test the son of former Steelers four-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
For Utah, their most significant loss is CB Clark Phillips III is one of the stickiest cornerbacks in college football, ranking just behind Joey Porter Jr as PFF’s 35th-ranked draft prospect. His six interceptions tied him for 2nd most in the country, and Phillips allowed a pedestrian 68.4 NFL Passer Rating when targeted, 1st among all of Utah’s defensive backs.
Their defense shouldn’t go through too much of a learning curve, bringing the Pac-12’s top defense to Pasadena, giving up just 20.4 points and 325.3 total yards. The superstar freshman tandem at running back for the Nittany Lions will face one of the toughest tests of their young careers against Utah’s elite run defense, allowing 3.8 yards per carry and only 107.0 per game.
Cameron Rising leads the Utes’ offensive attack that averages 40 points and over 470 yards on offense. Rising threw for 25 touchdowns to seven interceptions on a 66.2 accuracy rate, but Utah’s running game makes them dangerous. Utah led the Pac-12 with 37 rushing touchdowns with a 5.5 yards per carry average.
The Utes’ leading rusher, Tavion Thomas, suffered a toe injury in late November and announced he played his last game and will declare for the NFL Draft. With their committee of running backs, Ja’Quidden Jackson will serve just fine in a feature role, as he’s totaled 222 yards on the ground and five touchdowns in his last two games.
Utah also led the Pac-12 in total sacks with 38, but Penn State ranks Top-30 in college football with only 18 allowed all season. While the Nittany Lions’ best offensive lineman, LT Olu Fashanu, announced he’ll return to Happy Valley next season after being labeled a guaranteed first-round, he is inactive for the Rose Bowl Game after warming up pregame. Freshman Drew Shelton, who’s filled in for Fashanu since the Ohio State game, has allowed zero sacks in his 164 pass block snaps at left tackle.
Just like the Ohio State discrepancy to the Tulsa comeback moneyline win, the public is not good at betting, or Vegas would not exist. Let’s fade the public again and follow the sharp, big-money bets on the Nittany Lions. And why not some player props too?