Three Things to Watch…
Will Utah have enough available weapons is a topic on the minds of many around this game, as Utah’s top weapons will not play. The Utes’ leading receiver, tight end, Dalton Kincaid won’t play, nor will leading rusher Tavion Thomas. Defensively, top corner Clark Phillips is also out. Much in the way Penn State was crushed by opt-outs in the Outback Bowl a year ago, it’s hard to be confident in a team who’s most impactful players didn’t travel to Pasadena.
Penn State will be very motivated Monday and that can’t go understated. Historically speaking this is already a massive trip for Penn State who’s only been to the Rose Bowl four other times and is 1-3 in those games. But this is the last outing for a number of marquee players. Seniors Ji’ayir Brown, PJ Mustipher and Sean Clifford, will play, and Brenton Strange, Nick Tarburton and Juice Scruggs, players who have declared for the NFL draft, have all decided to opt-in. In an era where opting out is common, Penn State’s best are mostly in California and hope to grab one final win.
Penn State will see its own reflection a lot Monday as Utah certainly carries a bit of “Big Ten” swagger. Penn State coaches have talked about it all week, the Utes are a physical team the runs the ball, and tries winning games in the trenches and with great defense. It’s a “Big Ten” kind of system and it’s worked in the PAC 12. Utah is one of the top running teams in the country and doesn’t allow sacks. The Utes offense has been as explosive as any Penn State’s seen, but the Nittany Lions’ defense will be the best Utah has faced. Manny Diaz’s unit allowed just 40 points in the final four games of the season and has been as good as any Penn State defense in recent years in that span.