Ohio State’s season did not quite pan out as planned. The Buckeyes failed to qualify for the Big Ten title game and, in turn, has missed out on the College Football Playoff, finishing the season ranked No. 6 in the country. This Ohio State team was flawed from the beginning, but it appeared they had solved most of their issues — especially on the defensive side of the ball — coming off that blowout win over Michigan State. That was clearly not the case, as Michigan was able to expose the same problems we saw earlier in the year as the Wolverines effectively ended the Buckeyes’ national title hopes.
Speaking of that defense, it was simply not tough enough against a Michigan offense that looked to pound the rock early and often. The Wolverines ran the ball for almost 300 yards against Ohio State, and the vast majority of those yards came quite easily. Despite a run-heavy look from Jim Harbaugh’s guys, the Buckeyes sat in a 4-2-5 with a six-man box for almost the entirety of the game, refusing to adapt or do anything different to stop it. Linebacker was clearly a point of weakness for this team all season, and the staff set them up to fail in this one. As a result, the defensive assistants have come under fire as the fanbase seeks replacements — and rightfully so after two-straight seasons of poor play.
Ohio State’s offense wasn’t its usual self against Michigan either, and a good chunk of that blame falls on the shoulders of Ryan Day. After seeing the Buckeyes open up the playbook and introduce a ton of pre-snap motion the previous few weeks to really get things cooking, those plays were seemingly stripped from the playbook in the biggest and most important game of the year. The play-calling was subpar at best, and the four-tackles offensive line was quite obviously a failed experiment that fully came to light against the elite pass rush of TTUN. The wide receivers still did their thing, and C.J. Stroud still passed for almost 400 yards, but Ohio State was playing behind for much of the afternoon thanks to poor coaching on both sides and bad play in all three phases of the game.
So, instead of preparing for a College Football Playoff game, Ohio State will now head to Pasadena, where they will take on Utah in the Rose Bowl as part of the New Year’s Six bowl games.
Ohio State vs. Utah: Rose Bowl betting lines
(All odds courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook)
Spread: Ohio State -7
The Utes enter this game as champions of the Pac-12, notably beating up on Oregon for the second time this season — the same Oregon that beat Ohio State in Columbus earlier this year. After knocking off the Ducks 38-7 towards the end of the regular season, it was a nearly identical result in the rematch for Kyle Whittingham’s team as they won the conference title game by a score of 38-10.
This Utah team is really solid on both sides of the ball, ranking 19th in the country in points per game (35.5) and 24th in points per game allowed (20.6). Offensively they are led by quarterback Cam Rising, who took over for Charlie Brewer at quarterback to pass for nearly 2,300 yards with 18 touchdowns to just five interceptions over 12 games of action. Similarly to Michigan, this is a team that loves to run the football, as starting running back Tavion Thomas posted over 1,000 yards this season with a whopping 20 touchdowns. Rising struggled a bit against Oregon, throwing for only 170 yards with a TD and two picks, but Thomas managed to find the end zone twice.
On defense this team is very sound across the board, and they showed out against the Ducks in the Pac-12 title as they held Anthony Brown to 147 yards passing while picking him off twice. There are some studs on this defensive unit, but the straw that stirs the drink for the Utes is linebacker Devin Lloyd. The fourth-year star led Utah with 107 total tackles, also posting team-highs in tackles for loss (22) and interceptions (4) while finishing second on the team in sacks (7). Defensive end Mika Tafua holds that No. 1 sack spot with 9.5 total as a threat off the edge, also tallying 13 tackles for loss. Buckeye fans also may recognize cornerback Clark Phillips III, a one-time Ohio State commit.
Ohio State struggled with a team that was far more physical than them in Michigan, and things won't get any easier against Utah. The Utes are an incredibly tough team and one that wants to smack you in the mouth on every single play. If the Buckeyes once again play soft, they could be in for a long day out in California. The coaching staff will have to be far better in its preparation for this one than they were for the game in Ann Arbor, and the potential to be without a few of their NFL-bound talents would only add to the level of difficulty.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.