Penn State is officially headed back to the Rose Bowl, folks. This time, the Nittany Lions will take on the defending and reigning Pac-12 Champions, the Utah Utes.
Penn State’s spot in the Rose Bowl was somewhat expected heading into the weekend given the reporting out there, but it was locked in once USC lost in the Pac-12 Championship Game, clearing the way for Ohio State to sneak in the backdoor to the College Football Playoff. With no Buckeyes to contend against — and Purdue going down to Michigan — it was a shoe-in that the Nittany Lions would be chosen for the Rose Bowl.
This will be Penn State’s fifth trip to Pasadena, and the first one since the 2016 season when the Nittany Lions lost an absolute classic/heartbreaker to USC 52-49. In Penn State’s three other meetings at the Rose Bowl, they went 1-2, with a win over Oregon in 1994 and losses to USC in 1923 and 2008.
As far as this season and this game though, I don’t think this can be looked at as anything but an overwhelmingly positive for the Nittany Lions. Yes, Penn State came up short in the regular season against Michigan and Ohio State, but they took care of business otherwise, finished 10-2, and now head to the mecca of college football. Heading into a season where a lot of fans and prognosticators alike thought that 8-4 was more likely, it will be sweet to wrap up the bounce back season in the Granddaddy of Them All.
We’ll have a ton more on Utah in the coming days and weeks, but provided there aren’t too many opt outs among the teams, it looks like a decently even matchup. Utah has a strong defense and relies on its running game offensively — sounds like another team we know pretty well.