STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — Every football player dreams of playing on the biggest stages, capturing the eyes of the nation and competing for a championship.
While the College Football Playoff has now become the crown jewel, the Rose Bowl – part of the New Year’s Six slate of Bowl games, is arguably the grandest outside of it. And in it’s 109th year, it features Penn State and Utah.
From starting this season unranked, many never expected the Nittany Lions rise to a top-ten team.
“It’s really just a testament to not only myself, but the team and the work we’ve put in and where we’ve gone from 4-5 to 7-6 to no one believing in us – not being ranked – all that kind of stuff, man. And look at us now, we are 10-2 with a Rose Bowl bid,” said Penn State senior defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher.
Penn State most recently played in the Rose Bowl in 2017, when they lost to USC. And getting a chance to in one of the most prestigious bowl games in college football history is something this team isn’t taking for granted.
“Growing up around New Year’s, you always see that game popping up no matter what whether you’re a football fan or not, but it’s something as a kid I’ve dreamt of and I can’t wait to actually be out there in LA and be able to play in this game,” said Nick Tarburton, a senior defensive end for the Nittany Lions.
“I’ve never been to California before and it’s going to be a great experience,” added tight end Brenton Strange. “It’s a business trip for sure. We want top handle business, but I’m definitely excited to go to California and play in some sun.”
It won’t be a far trip for Utah. The back-to-back Pac-12 Conference champions are all too familiar with the Rose Bowl, appearing in it last year against Ohio State. James Franklin and Penn State have never faced the Utes in their school history, but he knows they will be a challenge.
“They are a tough football team, they are a physical football team, and they know how to win games a lot of different ways. So I got a bunch of respect for them,” said Franklin.
Penn State and Utah meet in the 109th Rose Bowl on Jan. 2 at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN.