The 108th Rose Bowl commences on January 1, 2022.
The game will return to it’s traditional Big Ten versus Pac-12 format as the Utah Utes prepare for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Ohio State are the only Big Ten school to win the game multiple times this millennium, as its 2010 and 2019 victories have accounted for half of the conferences wins in that time. The Buckeyes have won their last three Rose Bowl Games and have not lost since 1985.
Meanwhile, the Utes are making their Rose Bowl debuts on the 10-year anniversary of joining the PAC-12. They punched their ticket to “The Granddaddy of Them All,” by defeating Oregon in the PAC-12 Conference Championship game.
There is a bit of shared history between the two teams. Utah was the launching point for Urban Meyer before he landed at Florida, and eventually Ohio State. Ryan Day succeeded Meyer at Ohio State, and will go toe-to-toe against Kyle Whittingham, Meyers’ successor at Utah.
While Ohio State is the better team on paper, Utah has more to play for in this game. The Buckeyes are favored by four-and-a-half points, but the Utes could certainly make things interesting.
2022 Rose Bowl Preview
While Ohio State is no stranger to the PAC-12, the Utes and Buckeyes have only met once. That was a 64-6 blowout in favor of Ohio State, against a Utah team that was a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
But Utah has defeated Oregon twice, which means the Utes have wins against a team that beat Ohio State in September.
Utah comes into the Rose Bowl having won the PAC-12 for the first time, and winning its conference for the first time since 2008.
The Utes have the kind of offense that has had success against the Buckeyes this year. They have a strong running game that attacks the perimeter, which his what Oregon and Michigan did. The question for Utah is: does it have the athletes to dominate up front?
Tavion Thomas has 1,041 yards in 12 games and has 20 touchdowns. Thomas is the lead back, but T.J. Pledger and Micah Bernard can get it done too. The duo combined for over 1,000 yards in less than 200 carries, getting more than six yards a pop.
Even quarterback Cameron Rising has 407 yards and five touchdowns on only 63 carries. Statistically, Rising will run the ball five or six times against the Buckeyes.
Rising passed for 2,279 yards, 18 touchdowns, and five interceptions in 2021, completing 62.8 percent of his passes. The Buckeyes have faced better passing offenses than Utah’s, so the Utes will probably lean on the run game more than they normally would.
On defense, Devin Lloyd stands out among the bunch. Lloyd leads the Utes in total tackles, tackles for a loss, and interceptions. He is second in sacks, so he can rush the passer, tackle in the middle of the field, or haul in picks. Lloyd will likely be the first linebacker selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he’ll leave his mark on Ohio State before his college career is done.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State has an offense that can score dozens of points on anybody. True freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud and true freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson led the way, but the Buckeyes will be missing two important veteran players.
Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson have both opted out of the 2021 Rose Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. That means Ohio State has to replace 135 receptions, 1,994 yards, and 25 touchdowns worth of production.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the Buckeyes’ leader in receptions (80) and receiving yards (1,259, currently third all-time in a single season at Ohio State) will be Stroud’s best friend on New Years’ Day.
As for the Buckeyes’ defense, it’s still a unit in flux.
Jim Knowles will be in the booth for this game as the teams’ brand new defensive coordinator. However, the scheme will still resemble the Kerry Coombs–Matt Barnes system from 2021. The reason that neither of these coaches will be calling plays next year, however, is because they both got gouged by the type of rushing attack that Utah will bring.
Haskell Garrett is the only Buckeye opting out on defense, which means that draft-eligible Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith, Teradja Mitchell, Sevyn Banks, and Cameron Brown will suit up at least one more time for Ohio State.
The question for Ohio State is not just about its defense. Will the coaching staff be able to get the Buckeyes prepared to go against the motivated Utes?
For Utah, this is one of the biggest games in program history. Meanwhile, Ohio State might consider a 2022 Rose Bowl appearance a disappointment after playing for a National Championship a year ago.
With Utah’s best draft-eligible player opting in, and the Buckeyes’ best opting out, it tells you how the two programs view this game.