Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Rose Bowl - Penn St vs. Utah (1/2/2023) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: Rose Bowl – Penn St vs. Utah (1/2/2023)

By Michael Savio
December 30, 2022

#11 Penn State Nittany Lions vs #8 Utah Utes (1/2 @ 5:00 PM EST)

Spread: Utah -2.5
Money Line: Penn State +115 / Utah -135
Total: 52

Overview and Betting Info

The #11 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2) will take on the #8 Utah Utes (10-3) in this year’s Rose Bowl. Penn State finished third in the Big 10, while the Utes won the PAC 12 Championship. This will be the first matchup between these two schools.

The Nittany Lions are 8-3-1 against the spread this season and have covered their last six games. They have gone over the point total eight times and have done so in five of their previous seven games.

The Utes are 8-5 versus the spread and have covered four of their last five games. They have gone seven times over the point but have been under in four of their previous six games.

Penn State Nittany Lions

The Lions come into the Rose Bowl having won four of their last five games, with their two losses on the season coming to playoff teams (Ohio State & Michigan). The offense averages 432.4 yards and 35.8 points per game. They are led by Sean Clifford, who has thrown for 2,543 yards and 22 touchdowns. The senior quarterback is coming off one of his best games, where he completed 79% of his passes for four touchdowns in a win against Michigan State. Clifford will be without his top wideout on Monday, with Parker Washington (611 yards, 2 TD) skipping the game to prepare for the draft. That means Clifford will rely more on Mitchell Tinsley (528 yards, 4 TD), Brenton Strange (362 yards, 5 TD), and Theo Johnson (300 yards, 4 TD). Keep an eye on sophomore Keandre Lambert-Smith as well, as he stepped up for 83 yards and a touchdown in their last game.

The Penn State backfield is led by a duo of talented running backs, Nicholas Singleton (941 yards, 10 TD) and Kaytron Allen (830 yards, 9 TD). They have combined for nine touchdowns over their last five games and split carries reasonably evenly. Allen is better for grinding the ball on the ground, averaging 7 yards per carry and registering at least one play of 25+ yards over their last three games. Expect to see Clifford use his legs, as the quarterback has five rushing touchdowns on the year.

The defense has been a massive strength for Penn State, allowing just 317.9 yards and 18 points per game. They were incredible to finish the season, allowing an average of 10 points over their last four games. They have been led by an incredible season by safety Ji’Ayir Brown, who leads the team in tackles (66) and interceptions (3), to go along with three sacks. The senior playmaker has been all over the field and joins Kalen King (15 PD, 2 INT) and Johnny Dixon (7 PD, 2 INT) to round out a talented secondary. Up front, this defense is led by pass rushers Abdul Carter (6.5 sacks, 55 tackles), Adisa Isaac (4 sacks), and Demeioun Robinson (4 sacks). We’ll be watching Isaac and Carter in particular, as they have a combined seven sacks over the last three games.

Utah Utes

The Utes have won six of their previous seven games, including defeating USC for the PAC 12 title. The offense averages 472.7 yards and 40 points per game (8th in FBS). They are led by quarterback Cameron Rising, who has thrown for 2,939 yards and 25 touchdowns. The junior has also been an effective rusher, with 409 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. He was fantastic against USC in the PAC 12 championship, completing 64% of his passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Risings’ success can be partly attributed to the play of tight end Dalton Kincaid, who leads the team with 890 yards and eight touchdowns. The big end joins Money Parks (402 yards, 2 TD) and Thomas Yassmin (300 yards, 5 TD) to round out a receiving corps that will be without Devaughn Vele (transfer portal). While he’s only seeing one or two catches a game, we’ll be watching Yassmin on Monday as he has a touchdown in each of his previous four games.

The Utes will turn to Micah Bernard (474 yards, 4 TD) and Ja’Quinden Jackson (450 yards, 8 TD) on Monday to take over for injured leading rusher Tavion Thomas (687 yards, 7 TD). Bernard is also one of the team’s top receivers, with 306 yards and one touchdown through the air, while Jackson is the better rusher. We expect to see a heavy dose of both backs, but we see Jackson being the key to victory, as he has 222 yards and five touchdowns in their last two games. Watch out for Jaylon Glover (360 yards, 4 TD) as well, as he is expected to return to action on Monday.

The Utah defense has had a great season, allowing 325.3 yards and 20.4 points to opposing teams. Their success can be attributed to a talented group of pass rushers consisting of Gabe Reid (5.5 sacks), Mohamoud Diabate (5 sacks, 52 tackles), and Karene Reid (68 tackles, 4 sacks). We’ll also be watching freshman Simote Pepa, as the defensive tackle has all four of his sacks over his last three games. In the secondary, the Utes are led by Clark Phillips II, who has two touchdowns and is second in FBS with six interceptions. He joins RJ Hubert (75 tackles, 3 INT) to form one of the nation’s more impressive secondaries.

Free Pick: Utah -2.5

As well as the Nittany Lions have played this season, all of their wins came against bad Big 10 teams. When they faced the other top teams in the conferences (Michigan and Ohio State), they lost both games and were outscored by a combined 85-48. While Utah isn’t to the level of those two teams, they are a top 10 program with more talent than any of the Lions have beaten. The losses of Thomas and Vele hurt the Utes, but they have a ton of depth to help cover. Utah may take a while to figure out the Penn State defense, but they will find their weak points and walk away with the win on Monday night.

We’re giving up the points to roll with the Utes on Monday. 

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