Penn State Beat Writer Doesn’t Respect Pac-12 Conference, Except For Utah

Jan 1, 2023, 9:48 PM
Utah Utes fans during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is a rare bread of a West Coast football team, for the most part. The Utes are known for being a defensive giant in college football and that prowess along with an emerging offense over the past few years has the Utes in the Rose Bowl.

Under Kyle Whittingham, the Ute defense has been one of the best in their conferences and also among the elites in all of college football. Multiple players have been taken in the NFL Draft with most recently Devin Lloyd went in the first round last year, and defensive back Clark Phillips is expected to be a high first-round draft pick this year.

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The Utes are a defensive team and would fit in nicely with the Big Ten. There are five teams from the Big Ten that are in the top 10 in scoring defense, including Penn State at No. 9. Utah comes in at 21 in that category, but the Pac-12 has a bit more scoring prowess within the league.

Corey Giger of DKPittsburghSports.com joined Unrivaled and mimicked the theme that the Utes are like a Big Ten team with their defense.

“I don’t have a lot of respect for the Pac-12 conference,” Giger said. “They don’t play a lot of defense out there so a lot of numbers get inflated out there. I just don’t have a lot of respect for defense out in the Pac-12… except for Utah.”

“To me, Utah is that typical Big Ten type of defense that is smashmouth and they line up and will hit you, that is why I think this will be a great matchup. This is much more of a Big Ten vs. Big Ten matchup than it is a Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup.”

More Big Ten Comps

There are others on the Penn State side that feel that Utah’s defense is elite and would fit just right in with the Big Ten. That includes Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurchich who spoke to the media the week leading up to the game.

“They remind ya of a Big Ten team, Yurchich said.” I don’t know any specifics in comparisons [to a Big Ten team], but the way they play and their physicality by nature.  There is a lot of carryover.”

Another is former Notre Dame football player Mike Golic, Jr., who is in agreement that Utah is a mirror-image of a Big Ten team with their style of play on defense.”

I think so. We think about all these conferences having traditional identities, and it used to be that you had to work your conference’s identity in order to win, right? That’s what we’re seeing with Michigan at the top level in the Big Ten. Ohio State was built to win national championships,” Golic, Jr. said on his GoJo Podcast. “Utah is in a similar position.”

“Now, that’s not to say there aren’t other physical teams in the Pac-12. … But I think Utah is certainly that team that brings the physical mindset that maybe we also associated with Oregon when Mario Cristobal was there for a couple of years. So yeah, I would say there’s a lot of Big Ten flavor to this Utah meal.”

While the Utah defense is one thing that lines up with the Big Ten style of play, the offense is something that is not often seen, outside of Ohio State, Michigan, and also Penn State, who is averaging 35.8 points per game. The Nittany Lions played both the Wolverines and Buckeyes and lost by giving up over 40 points per game and that Utah offense could be the difference in this game if the Utes are gong to win their first-ever Rose Bowl.

Tune into Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 3-6 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM, or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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Penn State Beat Writer Doesn’t Respect Pac-12 Conference, Except For Utah