Since the advent of the college football playoff structure, the one bowl game that has not lost its luster is the Rose Bowl. There might be more important contests on the postseason football docket, but the history, pageantry, and natural beauty of the site make it a contest one has to tune in.
There is just something about starting the New Year by watching the Rose Bowl. Most years it is sun-drenched and those from cold weather locales just imagine how nice it is to be there with the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop.
The emerald green grass immediately outside the playing fields matches the colors of each team from the one 50-yard line, all around to the same 50-yard line on the opposite side of the gridiron with a matching color end zone. Each team gets one of these. It’s a perfect setting.
Though the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions no longer meet every year as in the past, the effort is still made to have at least one and one best from the other conference, just like this season.
Utah Utes vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
Saturday, January 1, 2022 – 5:00 PM EST at Rose Bowl
This year’s combatants are No. 11 and Pac-12 champions Utah State versus No. 6 Ohio State, who was upset by Michigan in their final contest. FanDuel and other sportsbooks have the Buckeyes as 4.5-point favorites (down from -7.5) with a total of 64 due to Ohio State opt-outs.
Utah Claims It’s Ready for Big Moment
After being manhandled at Oregon State, losing 42-34, and with a 4-3 record, Kyle Whittingham questioned his team internally about their desire and toughness. Utah (10-3, 6-7 ATS) was a – close but no cigar – program, and it was set up for more of the same.
Whatever was exactly said and how it was received changed the trajectory of Utes football and they are playing in their first-ever Rose Bowl by closing the season 6-0 (4-2 ATS). Utah players have to feel they are not overmatched, having destroyed Oregon twice, while Ohio State lost at Columbus to the Ducks.
Utah has about as balanced offense as there is in college football, running for 216 yards a game while passing for 213. Ohio State only had three poor games against the run, but they were all against quality opponents with a run-first mentality in Minnesota, Oregon, and Michigan, who gave them two of their setbacks.
The Utes permitted only 20.9 PPG, however, the teams they faced averaged 220 yards passing a game, the Buckeyes are throwing for 365 YPG. That will be a challenge for Utah, being able to run the ball and keep Ohio State’s passing offense out of the end zone.
Will Rose Bowl Appearance Help Ohio State Overcome Disappointment?
Normally, a Rose Bowl appearance is highly desirable by any Big Ten or Pac-12 club. But with the football playoffs, to some and probably many in Columbus and around Ohio, this is a letdown being in Pasadena.
Ohio State fans will be well represented at the Rose, but they did not come close to taking their full allotment and many suspect those from Utah will gobble those up. The Buckeyes players have had weeks to get over the disappointment of being whipped by Michigan.
If this was a Fiesta Bowl contest, one could make a strong case for Ohio State (10-2, 7-5 ATS) to be less enthused, but the Rose Bowl, that’s harder to believe. (Until Monday)
Quarterback C.J. Stroud was marvelous all season in directing the No. 5 passing offense in the country. The Buckeyes collection of pass-catchers was probably second only to Alabama, until Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave opted out Monday, just days before the game. If Stroud has time to pass this will likely be the deciding factor in the contest, can Utah control the Buckeyes prolific pass offense?
The Ohio State defensive front seven was embarrassed by Michigan and they should be plenty motivated. If they can force the Utes to throw the pigskin, that gives Ryan Day’s club an advantage on both sides of the ball.
Who Covers the Spreads
When we started writing this article, both of Ohio State’s top receivers were playing, that has now changed. With at least two other leaving the program, one has to wonder if the rest of the Buckeyes care about playing.
Our initial college football pick was the Buckeyes at +6.5, but that has changed as we have real questions about Ohio State’s commitment to playing which is a sad day for the Rose Bowl and college football in general.
We’ll flip our allegiance to Utah at +4.5 because their job is easier covering less experienced receivers and they are fully committed to winning in Pasadena.
NCAAF Pick: Utah +4.5 (-110) with FanDuel