Utah faces Penn State as the sun sets on a Rose Bowl era

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — The sun usually sets behind Arroyo Seco late in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl. The moment is often spectacular, with clouds turning pink and orange as the San Gabriel Mountains light up in dazzling reds and yellows amid dying rays.

The sun also sets on an era in Rose Bowl history on Monday when No. 7 Utah (10-3, No. 8 CFP) takes on No. 9 Penn State (10-2, No. 11 CFP).

“We’re playing in the last, I guess, traditional Rose Bowl,” Penn State defensive tackle Nick Tarburton said.

The 109th Granddaddy of Them All is the latest to secure the game’s age-old duo of Pac-12 and Big Ten teams. The game’s status as a college football playoff semifinal next season and expanded playoff in 2024 has set the future in motion for the sport’s oldest active bowl game.

“If indeed this becomes the last traditional slotted Rose Bowl, it’s a great honor to be a part of it, and we want to be proud of it,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.

For such a storied sporting event, this uncertainty is unusual — but not truly unprecedented, as Rose Bowl management committee chair Laura Farber pointed out.

While the Rose Bowl is a national New Year’s institution, kicked off by the famous Rose Parade and continuing until the 2 p.m. kickoff that leads to those famous sunsets, the big game was played on other days. than January 1, including this year. because New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday – and has presented all sorts of geographical confrontations over the decades, especially in its first half-century when the Ivy League teams and the powerhouses of the South often made the trip.

“It’s really hard to say what the future holds because no one knows,” Farber said. “What’s interesting is learning to balance tradition and innovation, and being flexible and accepting change, because there have been some super rapid changes over the past year in the college football, the last few years, really. We’ve had to be flexible, but remind everyone how much this game means to so many people.


This Pac-12/Big Ten game has everything it takes to come out on top.

Both programs are regular visitors to Pasadena, with consistent histories of success under two prominent and respected coaches who have never won the Rose Bowl. The Utes won the Pac-12 and reached Pasadena for the second straight year in another high point on their impressive journey to national prominence, while the Nittany Lions only lost to the playoffs of Michigan and Washington. Ohio State on another double-digit winning campaign.

The Rose Bowl marks the first meeting between the schools. Utah is the only Pac-12 school the Nittany Lions have never faced.

“I think there are a lot of similarities between our programs and the way they’re built,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “(Utah is a) fundamentalist, tough, solid program. We play very well in defense and we have done so all year. I think they were also built with his (Whittingham) experience on the defensive side of the ball. But I think their quarterback really drives them forward. I have a ton of respect for him.


Utah quarterback Cameron Rising could end his college career with one more game in his native Southern California, but the Ventura County product isn’t thinking about the NFL just yet. He had career-highs of 2,939 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, capped by a stellar three-touchdown effort in the Utes’ conference title game win over USC.

Rising also has redemption on his mind: He suffered an injury as last season’s Rose Bowl tied with about 10 minutes left, and Ohio State rallied for a 48-45 win. even after Rising’s replacement Bryson Barnes conducted a TD workout.

“We’re happy to be back, but we have unfinished business that we want to finish this time,” Rising said. “I remember seeing (Ohio State) celebrating and having the ceremony right after, and seeing it after I left the field. It’s been stuck in my head ever since, and I want to be on the other side now.


Quarterback Sean Clifford is a sixth-year senior playing his 51st game for Penn State. He’s the school’s career leader in passing yards and touchdowns, but he’s looking to cap his career with what could be his biggest win.

Clifford has just one bowl victory on his resume: a 53-39 win over Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl in which he passed for just 133 yards.

“When the lights are shining brightest, you need to perform at your highest level,” Clifford said. “It’s just about figuring it all out when you first run out, being there for a second or two, and then it’s about winning the game.”


Both teams will miss key players who skipped Pasadena to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Penn State will be without cornerback Joey Porter Jr., a second-team All-American defenseman and perimeter stopper, while Utah will be without its first-team All-American cornerback. American, Clark Phillips III. The Utes are also without tight end Dalton Kincaid, who had 70 catches for a team-leading 890 yards and eight touchdowns, and first rusher Tavion Thomas.


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