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Prugar’s 3-and-Out: Time To Stop and Smell The Roses

Penn State Athletics

When Penn State and Utah take the field Jan. 2 it’ll be the fifth time Penn State has played in the Rose Bowl.

It will be the second time coach James Franklin’s  led the program to the “Grandaddy of Them All” and first since 2016 in what would eventually become an instant classic against USC.

Will the Nittany Lions come out on the good side against the Utes? That remains to be seen, but until then, it’s time to stop, smell the roses and enjoy the ride.

DRINK IT IN, MAN

To me, there’s nothing like this game. The pomp and circumstance surrounding the event from the Rose Parade to the atmosphere at the Rose Bowl, it’s second to none.

I was fortunate to cover the 2016 edition and it’s sure to be a game and experience I won’t soon forget.

The past two seasons have been a sign that, despite the hope and potential, things can go astray at a moments notice. Situations across the nation have proven the grass isn’t always greener on the other side when programs are down and decide to make changes. Looking at you, Nebraska.

Penn State rebounded impressively two years of mediocrity to make it to a second New Year’s Six bowl in four years.

The future looks bright, but as the past few seasons have shown everyone, anything is possible. So soak it up. Enjoy the ride.

THE PERFECT STORM

Quite literally, everything had to align for Penn State to get to this point.

Michigan and Ohio State had to make the playoff, and they did. Penn State needed to finish out the season as the next highest ranked Big Ten team, and it did despite falling in the final CFP poll as a result of not playing championship Saturday.

On Utah’s side, the perfect storm was even crazier.

The Utes barely made it to the Pac-12 title game  and beat then-ranked No. 4 USC for the second time this season.

Now, they’re back in the Rose Bowl Game and also are Pac-12 champions for the second straight year.

Both teams boast experienced quarterbacks with Sean Clifford leading the way for the Nittany Lions and Cam Rising leading the Utes. Both defenses have been impressive at times, but Utah held the Trojans to 24 points after previously allowing 42 in the first meeting.

On the flip side, Penn State has allowed 17 or more points four times.

For the offense, well, that leads us to our next topic.

THE ‘SEAN CLIFFORD EXPERIENCE’

Jan. 2, the “Sean Clifford Experience” comes to an end in the “Grandaddy of Them All.” It’s a fitting end to what has been an interesting career, to say the least. He’s been around for what seems like forever, set records, won games and played a lot of football.

Believe it or not— and I’m guessing by looking at Twitter during games, it’s not believed— Clifford’s won a New Year’s Six game before, beating Memphis in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. He’s thrown for 10,000-plus yards. 84 touchdowns and rushed for 15 more. That’s not by accident.

There won’t be another Clifford. He was a four-time captain, was with the program for six years and rewrote the record books. With Clifford the highs were super high and the lows were demonstratively low, but right in the middle was where he made his magic, leading to Penn State winning quite a few football games.

After the Rose Bowl, it’s Drew Allar’s show. Clifford’s handled the situation with class and dignity, and for that, he should be applauded.

We’ll see if Clifford can ride off into the Nittany Valley sunset on a high note.

JAMES FRANKLIN’S HOT SEAT METER

Right now, the meter is still off.

It’s the second New Year’s Six bowl in four seasons for Franklin. There aren’t many, if any, high-profile openings this year. Franklin is here to stay and so to is the Hot Seat Meter!

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