The sport of college football has evolved over the years, but no matter how it has changed, the Rose Bowl still holds the distinction of being the most glamorous bowl game on the repertoire each season. This year, on New Years Day, the No. 11 Utah Pac-12 champion will face the No. 6 Ohio State in a meeting between two of the best teams in the country to avoid reaching the college football playoff field.
The Buckeyes were a win over Michigan, away from a likely playoff spot (we can’t assume they would have beaten Iowa, but we can assume they would a little bit). At the same time, Utah is a team that would hit “Nobody wants this team in the playoffs” if there was an expanded 12-team format this season.
Even if a national title might not be at stake, don’t be upset. It’s still the Rose Bowl, and it’s a Rose Bowl with an awesome matchup. It’s also a rarity as this will only be the second clash between the state of Ohio and Utah in football. Let’s hope this is closer as Ohio State won the lone meeting 64-6 in 1986.
How to watch Rose Bowl live
Game: Bowl of roses
date: Saturday, January 1st | time: 5 p.m. ET
location: The Rose Bowl – Pasadena, California
TV: ESPN | Live broadcast: fuboTV (Try it for free)
Ohio State vs. Utah: Need to Know
Ohio State with no key players on either side of the ball: It is an unfortunate reality these days that players with NFL futures often turn down bowl games for non-playoff games, even the Rose Bowl. Ohio State will do without Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in this game, a duo who have scored 135 catches, 1,994 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Well, the good news is, if there’s one area the Buckeyes can afford without a player, it’s the receiver’s position. Jaxon Smith-Njigba plays and has been the team’s lead receiver this season. Let’s not forget that the Ohio State reception room was so deep that Jameson Williams moved to Alabama ahead of the season for the season. Players who may not be that easy to replace include defensive lineman Haskell Garrett and Nicholas Petit-Frere, starting on the left.
Third downs will be huge: Yes, it takes a real football genius to tell you third downs are important, but they are! And these are two offenses that happen to be two of the best when it comes to converting them. Ohio State ranks third nationwide with a 52% conversion rate on third downs, while Utah ranks eighth with 49%. The Buckeyes do even better in third and middle situations (between 4 and 6 yards), converting 72% of the time. That’s the best in the whole country. Chances are that the defense that best keeps the opposing offensive off the field is the winning team.
Watch out for the Utah Pass rush: Oregon’s defensive end, Kayvon Thibodeaux, might be first choice in the NFL draft this spring, but he didn’t sack the Pac-12. He didn’t even get in the top two. No, these seats were occupied by two Utes. Mike Tafua led the league with 9.5 sacks, 1.5 more than his second-placed teammate Devin Lloyd. When you consider the potency of CJ Stroud and the Ohio State pass attack, you know the importance of a strong pass frenzy in slowing it down. With Tafua and Lloyd, the Utes can do it just like anyone else.
Rose Bowl prediction, tips
Featured game | Ohio State Buckeyes versus Utah Utes
It is not an easy game to find out. Ohio State is missing a number of key players but still has one of the most talented squads in the country. Even if the successors are inexperienced, they have spent the last month practicing in their new roles and should be prepared. But we’ve also seen the Buckeyes fight a physical team in Michigan, and this Utah team is every bit as tough as the Wolverines. So I’m playing a bit on both sides here. I think Ohio State wins the game most of the time, but I don’t think the Buckeyes can throw this Utah team off track – especially when you know the Utes will play in their first Rose Bowl. So to win bucks, to cover utes. Forecast: Utah (+6.5)
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