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A Super Bowl rooting guide for Ohio State football fans

If your team isn’t in the Super Bowl, which should you be pulling for in Super Bowl LVIII?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we know who will be playing in the Super Bowl, it’s the time of year when neutrals are looking for a rooting interest. If your team made it to the big game, congratulations, you have no ambiguity whatsoever on the team for which you’ll be rooting. Likewise, if one of the teams is a rival of your favorite squad, you’re more likely to be rooting against either the Kansas City Chiefs or San Francisco 49ers.

However, what if you’re a true neutral? What would tip the scales for you to help you pick someone to root for on Feb. 11 in Super Bowl LVIII?

Since you’re reading this site, chances are you’re an Ohio State fan. So, which of the teams is the one with the strongest ties to the Buckeyes? Let’s look at the rosters and coaching staffs of the two teams for some answers.

San Francisco’s roster features defensive ends Nick Bosa and Chase Young — two of the all-time greats at the position in Ohio State history. Bosa is San Francisco’s sack leader, with 10.5, and he’s amassed 46 tackles (27 solo) and four passes defensed. He has been a starter written in ink since becoming the 49ers’ first-round draft selection (No. 2 overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft. The 2017 first-team All-American played in 29 career games at Ohio State, logging 77 tackles (47 solo), 17.5 sacks, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one touchdown.

Young, who was acquired midseason in a trade with the Washington Commanders, is a recent arrival in San Francisco. After an injury-plagued career in the nation’s capital, Washington traded the defensive end to San Francisco on Nov. 1 of last year in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2024 NLF Draft. Young played in seven games with Washington, starting six, before heading to San Francisco, where he played in nine games (no starts). He recorded a combined 25 tackles on the season (17 solo) with 7.5 sacks and two passes defensed. The Maryland native was a unanimous All-American at Ohio State in 2019 and was a Heisman Trophy finalist after breaking the school’s single-season sack record, racking up 16.5.

On the coaching side, the 49ers don’t have many ties to Ohio, although tight ends coach Brian Fleury did spend time as the Browns’ outside linebackers coach in 2015 after a season as an assistant linebackers coach in Cleveland. San Francisco Linebackers Coach Johnny Holland spent 2016 in the same role with the Browns.

The biggest connection is Running Backs Coach Robert Turner, Jr., who served as Ohio State’s running backs coach in 1989 and 1990, where he oversaw Scottie Graham’s transition from fullback to tailback and also coached Robert Smith. The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (241) in 1989, while averaging 418 yards of total offense and just a fraction under 30 points per game.

A big drawback for Ohio State fans looking for a rooting interest is that former Michigan quarterback Brian Griese is San Francisco’s quarterbacks coach. Additionally, San Francisco has recent Wolverines receiver Ronnie Bell, kicker Jake Moody, and cornerback Ambry Thomas. Bell is a rookie and third-string receiver who was selected in the seventh round (No. 253) in the 2023 NFL Draft. He played in 17 games this season and made just six receptions for 68 yards, but managed to score three touchdowns among those six catches.

Moody was also a 2023 draft pick by San Francisco, which selected him in the third round (No. 99), which is quite high for a kicker. He played in all the team’s games in 2023 and made 84% of his field-goal attempts, making 21 of 25 on the year.

Thomas, a backup to Deommodore Lenoir at corner, was a third-round pick by the 49ers (No. 102 overall) in 2021. He appeared in 15 games and made 42 tackles (35 solo) with seven passes defensed and one interception.

The Kansas City Chiefs do not have any Ohio State players on the roster. However, they do have one Michigan Wolverine – defensive end Michael Danna, who Kansas City drafted in the fifth round back in 2020. Danna, who starts opposite George Karlaftis on the defensive line, appeared in 16 games in 2023, making 47 total tackles (29 solo) to go along with 6.5 sacks and three passes defensed.

The Chiefs’ main coaching staff is also bereft of Ohio State personnel.

This one is a pretty easy call. San Francisco has more ties to Ohio State than Kansas City, although the 49ers also have more Wolverines. But if the Chiefs win, no former Buckeyes get to win it, so the OSU rooting interest should be with the NFC’s 49ers.