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Ohio State currently sits as a four-point favorite over Utah in the Rose Bowl

The point spread has dropped three points since the matchup was announced earlier this month.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

We all understand how weird the last two years have been for society at large, and that the Ohio State football team has been no exception. Both the 2020 and 2021 seasons have been filled with unimaginable highs, but also more than enough painful lows to make any spoiled fanbase uncomfortable.

So, it’s no surprise that coming into the Rose Bowl on Saturday that expectations for the Buckeyes are a bit all over the map. When the matchup against Utah in the Granddaddy of Them All was announced on Dec. 5, the Buckeyes opened up as a touchdown and extra point favorite. However, that has nearly been cut in half over the past three and a half weeks.

According to DraftKings SportsBook, the No. 6 Buckeyes are currently just a four-point favorite over the No. 11 Utes. For many reasons, some are expecting Utah to come out and bully Ryan Day’s squad. The Pac-12 champs are a solid, physical team led by dominant lines on both sides of the trenches. They also get an incredible amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, something that Buckeye quarterback C.J. Stroud has struggled with all season.

So, while the oddsmakers still have OSU as more than a field goal-favorite, confidence in Ohio State’s ability to hold off a very physical Utah team is waning, especially as more and more Buckeyes opt out. So, if I were a betting man (not to mention a Buckeye fan who is incredibly anxious about the outcome of this game) I would likely skip the spread — even with Ohio State laying four points — and maybe just focus on the over/under.

Currently, the o/u is coming in at 64 points, which is down three from the opening of 67. Ohio State is averaging a national best 45.5 points per game, while the Utes come in 19th nationally with 35.5. While I am not a math genius, my calculator tells me that if these two teams hit their season averages, they will score 81 points, 17 more than the projected number.

Now, I’ve mentioned how stout Utah’s defense is, so it would not be surprising if the Buckeyes did not reach their season average, but consider their games against the best defenses that they’ve faced this season.

Ohio State Offense vs. 2021 Top-60 Scoring Defenses

Date Opponent OSU Score Opp. Scoring D Rank
Date Opponent OSU Score Opp. Scoring D Rank
09/02/2021 Minnesota 45 9
09/11/2021 Oregon 28 59
10/02/2021 Rutgers 52 51
10/30/2021 Penn State 33 7
11/06/2021 Nebraska 26 37
11/13/2021 Purdue 59 19
11/20/2021 Michigan State 56 60
11/27/2021 Michigan 27 4
01/01/2022 Utah TBD 21
Avergae Score: 40.75

Utah enters the Rose Bowl as the 21st-ranked scoring defense in the country, which puts them in the middle of the top eight defenses that the Buckeyes have faced this season. Against the four defenses that rank higher than the Utes, OSU is averaging 41 ppg. Of course, Utah is a much different defense than Minnesota, Penn State, and Purdue, but they do look an awful lot like TDUN.

So, if the Buckeyes can possibly split the difference between their average against the top-four scoring defenses (41 ppg) and what they put up against their rivals (27), that would be a solid 34 and more than halfway to the o/u.

For their part, the Utes are averaging 38.8 ppg since the beginning of October and have only scored under 34 once — racking up 28 in their regular season finale against Colorado. And given Ohio State’s defensive struggles, I would not be surprised if an offense as dedicated to the run as Utah’s is doesn’t just move the ball (and score) nearly at will against the Buckeyes. So, I am fairly comfortable in picking the over in this one.

As always, this column is for entertainment purposes only — except in states where it is not.