PASADENA, Calif. (ABC4 Sports) – When Utah takes on Penn State tomorrow, it will be the last traditional Rose Bowl between a Pac-12 team and Big Ten team.
Starting next year, the Rose Bowl will be a part of the 12-team College Football Playoffs, and it will be pure coincidence if the two conferences meet in Pasadena again.
“It makes it more special,” said Utes quarterback Cam Rising. “This has been one of my favorite bowl games ever since I was a kid. To be a part of what could be the last that is special. It’s going to be etched in history because of that.
To be able to represent the Pac-12 for a second straight year, means a lot to this program.
“We want to establish ourselves and one of the elites in the country,” said safety R.J. Hubert. “To be coming back to a New Year’s Six bowl game twice in a row is kind of indicitive of the trajectory of our program.”
“If we’re able to get a win, it would be another step in the right direction for our program,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “But I can tell you right now, the season is a success regardless.”
The similarities between Utah and Penn State are uncanny. Both teams started the year with College Football Playoffs hopes, which were derailed by early season losses. Both teams love to establish the run, and both teams pride themselves on being very physical on both sides of the ball.
Penn State is 14th in the nation in rushing yards allowed, while Utah is 15th. The Utes have rushed for 2,863 yards this year, while the Nittany Lions have run for 2,185.
“There’s a lot of similarities,” said running back Micah Bernard. “They’re very physical, and guess what? That’s us. We don’t stop playing.”
“Penn State really is a mirror image of us and our offense,” said defensive end Gabe Reid. “It’s fun and exciting. We actually get to play almost against ourselves.”
So for the Utes, going against their own offense and defense everyday in practice, should help them come game time against the Nittany Lions.
“It does help you prepare to a certain degree,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “There are certainly enough differences, so you’ve to make sure you cover all your bases. But that does help us when you’re playing a team when the offense are so similar.”
“We pride ourselves on being the toughest team in the Pac,” said linebacker Karene Reid. “Now we have a chance to prove ourselves on a national stage that we are really tough and aggressive.”
Both Utah and Penn State sold out their ticket allotment, but being closer to Pasadena, the Utes are expecting more of a home field advantage.
“Our fan base is really amazing,” said wide receiver DeVaughn Vele. “It’s the same thing that happened last year. The fans that came out to the Rose Bowl last year were unbelievable. It felt like a home game, just in California. So, I’m expecting the same thing this year.”
“It’s nice being in California, so we more or less have that home field advantage,” said tight end Thomas Yassmin. “It’s always an unbelievable feeling just going out there. It just feels like another home game at Rice-Eccles.”
#8 Utah (10-3) and #11 Penn State (10-2) will kick off at 3:00 p.m. MT Monday at the Rose Bowl.