Tomorrow afternoon, the 109th edition of the Rose Bowl will kick off from Pasadena, California. The 2023 edition of the "Granddaddy of the All" it will mark an end of an era.
Tomorrow's clash will not only mark the end of the longest continual tri-party agreement between bowl and conferences, one that dates back to 1946, but it is also a sunset to the bowl system we all know.
With the news that the College Football Playoff will expand and the Bowl Committees that oversee that section of postseason play will meet in the spring to revamp the bowl system, it is fitting the sunset of the bowl system comes at the Rose Bowl.
Participating in the Rose Bowl tomorrow is Penn State, who participated in the first Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl Stadium over 100 years ago, and is their fifth time playing in the game.
The Nittany Lions have some signature runs in the game whether it was Ki-Jana Carter's 83-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ball game against Oregon in the 1995 Rose Bowl:
Or Saquon Barkley's 79-yard touchdown run that was a highlight in an epic duel with Southern California in the 2017 Rose Bowl:
The Nittany Lions have had great memories in the Rose Bowl as well as some hard ones: They're 1-3 in the game.
One of the hard memories was the 2017 Rose Bowl, where Penn State after having an avalanche of a third-quarter scoring 28 points and a 14-point lead, was left in heartbreak with Southern Cal scoring 17 unanswered points in a 52-49 loss.
Penn State head coach James Franklin commented this week about his previous experience, "Played in an unbelievable game with USC last time. Getting here is one thing and takes hard work and perseverance and a plan from when the season ended last year. Both programs want to finish this thing the right way. Both will have momentum going into next year based on rosters. But to end the season with a win, would like to be one of them and against a really good opponent, that’s important too."
After losing a heartbreak to Ohio State at home, Penn State had a November to remember going 4-0 and outscoring opponents 165-40.
If another Nittany Lion can join Carter and Barkley in Rose Bowl memories, it is the freshman duo Nicholas Singleton, who seems to have the ability to take one the distance every time he touches the ball, and Kaytron Allen, who seems to have the power to grind through any situation tasked to him.
"They’re tremendous. They can run inside and outside. No running back has success without a great front and these guys have that. They’re committing to the run game. Just like Utah. It’s very intriguing because of all the similarities between these two teams. The offensive line moving people around is where it starts, " said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham of Singleton and Allen ahead of his matchup with the Nittany Lions.
Much like how Franklin endured defeat in 2017, Whittingham and his team endured heartbreak a year ago against Ohio State.
Whittingham watched a 14 point first-half lead disappear in the second half as the Utes had no answers for a Buckeye wide receiver core that saw a record-breaking day from Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., and C.J. Stroud throw for 573 yards and six touchdowns.
"Came up short to a very good Ohio State team last year. To get a win would be another step in right direction for the program. Season is a success regardless. From where they started in the conference, it’s big. Harder to sustain success than get there the first time and guys did a great job taking that to heart. To get a win would be another step in the right direction."
— Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham
When you look at the steps Whittingham has taken for the Utah Utes program since taking over for Urban Meyer in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, he has guided them to wins in two New Year's Six Bowls in four appearances including the 2009 Sugar Bowl against Alabama. After that season, the selector Anderson & Hester named Utah national champions. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, they have claimed the title twice despite sharing a division with blueblood USC.
Adding a Rose Bowl championship would be another accomplishment on an already Hall of Fame resume for Whittingham.
The engineer that conducts the Utes offense is Cameron Rising, who just seems to answer the call when Utah needs it. “Cam Rising is a competitor, warrior, you name it. He’s a champion,” Whittingham said earlier this year describing Rising following a 43-42 win over Southern California.
While there is no doubt in my mind the desire to win is paramount for both Utah and Penn State tomorrow and the game will live up to the expectation, it will be indeed a sunset of a time in college football.
Bowl games used to be the gold standard where all programs strived to attend one.
It was a way to show and display your program on a national stage and network with your alumni base in different areas of the country along with expanding your brand.
The College Football Playoff has changed the course of the sport forever and now the emphasis is making the playoff. The expansion of the playoff now will most likely consume the entire New Year's Six lineup of the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta, and Peach Bowls.
How the rest of the bowl slate will be determined is an issue that will need to be handled in the very near future.
The Rose Bowl was a giant constant, when it wasn't the site for the BCS National Championship Game or a College Football Playoff Semifinal site, it was the battle of the two leagues who began postseason play between the Big Ten and Pac-12.
The names that made this game what it was is the who's who of the sport whether it was Pop Warner, John McKay, Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes, Archie Griffin, Charles Woodson, or Reggie Bush amongst countless others it was a contest between the best of the two most prestigious conferences for football supremacy.
The matchup tomorrow signals an end to a century-old tradition of bowl games.
They are destined to change later this year and as the bowl season comes for 2023, we will begin to see a completely new bowl system.
Take in the last traditional Rose Bowl for all it is worth. It will be the last time the bowl era we all know will exist.