Utah Football Ready to Rock for Program’s Second Straight Rose Bowl


Jack Gambassi

The University of Utah Utes take the field for their matchup against the USC Trojans for the Pac-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Editor


The University of Utah football team will be playing in their second consecutive Rose Bowl on Monday afternoon in what is sure to be a thrilling conclusion to a great season. Against all odds, Utah qualified for the Pac-12 Title Game thanks to a few closing-day shenanigans and help from their conference rivals, where they dismantled USC en route to a repeat championship. The Utes put themselves back in the Rose Bowl, where they are looking for a different outcome from last year’s 48-45 defeat at the hands of Ohio State.

Utah’s opponent this time around is the Penn State Nittany Lions, a team that has two losses on the season, both to College Football Playoff participants. Their schedule in the Big Ten hasn’t been the toughest in the world, but you can only play who’s in front of you, and the Nittany Lions have answered the bell, besting every inferior opponent on the way to a 10-2 season. 

As the third-best Big Ten team, it’s rare for a team like this to get the chance to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. But, with Michigan and Ohio State both being worthy playoff teams, Penn State finds themselves with a chance to win their first Rose Bowl since 1995

The Utes will be short handed in this game. Tight end Dalton Kincaid and cornerback Clark Phillips III have rightfully assessed their NFL Draft stock and are taking no risks of putting that in jeopardy. Both players have declared for the draft and will not play in the Rose Bowl. Running back Tavion Thomas left the team prior to the conference championship due to an injury, and he will head to the draft as well.

Cameron Rising will need to lead his team as the veteran star quarterback, but he appears up for the challenge. His number-one target in the receiving game, Kincaid, won’t be there, so they’ll have to get creative. Expect a lot of targets for Devaughn Vele and Thomas Yassmin.

Speaking of Rising, there’s some growing buzz over his decision for next season. He has previously stated his decision to pursue the NFL, but things change in college football all the time. He has an option for one more season, and the allure of a run at the College Football Playoff could be too much to pass up. 

Schematically, this is a much different opponent as compared to last season. Ohio State looked at Micah Bernard, a running back, playing corner against five-star receivers and licked their chops. The Utes are fortunate to have a much better health situation this year, despite Phillips heading to the NFL. Zemaiah Vaughn, JaTravis Broughton and R.J. Hubert should be able to hold down the fort much better against a passing attack nowhere near the level of C.J. Stroud to Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

The general vibe around this Utah program is that they are locked in for the game on Monday. Last season, with all the festivities and parties going on in Los Angeles during the week of the New Year leading up to the game, it was tough for these guys to keep their focus. Now, all of them have been there before, and know what they have to do to stay locked in on the task at hand. 

The Rose Bowl kicks off on Monday Jan. 2, at 3 p.m. MST from Pasadena, California. The Utes are favored by two points against Penn State.


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